A bill that would prohibit smoking at New Jersey public and private colleges and universities was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.
The legislation would prohibit smoking on the grounds and in the buildings of colleges statewide, indoors and out. It also would ban the use of chewing tobacco or other tobacco products that do not require smoking.
At Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township, which already restricts smoking on campus to designated gazebos under penalty of fine, students and staff say they would support an outright ban.
“I think the ban is a good thing just because it helps to eliminate the litter and the cigarette butts. And secondhand smoke is dangerous, potentially even moreso than smoking itself,” senior psychology major Karen Rentschler said. “I’m a smoker, but I appreciate the fact it’s segregated.”
Rentschler also said she is in favor because such a rule might help her quit.
Clerk typist Krystal Vullo said she would also support a ban, but questioned how strongly it would be enforced. While the majority of students and staff comply with the current restriction, she said, some insist on smoking despite the threat of a fine of as much as $200, often near building entrances and exits.
“I feel like it always gets in my hair and then I walk in and I smell like cigarettes,” Vullo said.
The bill is the latest move in a trend toward curbing smoking in New Jersey and beyond. It modifies the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006, which restricts smoking in public places.
While restrictions on smoking do pose a civil rights questions, supporters say the act of smoking violates the rights of others. Stockton professor John White said he would agree with a possible ban, citing such a belief.
“We can’t drink on campus, we can’t do a lot of things on campus we can do in our own homes and our cars,” he said. “With that said, I’m very much for the rights of individuals, but smoking impinges on the rights of other people.”
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