Cumberland County’s most populous municipality wants to reduce tobacco use in a county with the highest adult smoking rate in New Jersey.
Vineland City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to ban smoking in its parks and other public properties.
The vote, which follows a public hearing on the issue, essentially creates an entire city block where smoking will be banned.
City Hall, Police Department headquarters and Board of Education offices fill a block bordered by Wood, Plum, Sixth and Seventh streets. The city’s proposed regulations, and similar ones already enacted by the school district, will complement a state ban on smoking in indoor public places and workplaces throughout New Jersey.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 25 percent of adults in Cumberland County smoke tobacco products. South Jersey as a whole has the highest adult smoking rate in the state, according to the society.
City Councilwoman Maritza Gonzalez, who helped organize a series of monthly health and fitness events last summer, said studies show that reducing the number of places where people can smoke leads to a decrease in tobacco use.
“Health and wellness are impacted by tobacco use,” Gonzalez said. “Many of our residents struggle daily with their addiction.
“The tobacco industry targets our youth each and every day to become smokers in an effort to replace the smokers who die or quit,” she said. “I want to teach our kids that smoking isn’t the norm. To do that, we have to create environments that are tobacco-free so they not only hear the (do not smoke) message, they perceive it as well because it’s not permitted everywhere.”
City officials said penalties for breaking the regulations will also help. The city will fine offenders $50 to $100 for a first offense, $100 to $200 for a second offense, and $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Vineland is not the only Cumberland County municipality imposing smoking bans on public properties.
Lawrence Township Committee voted unanimously in January to ban smoking at its publicly owned recreational properties. The ban carries the same fine structure as is being proposed in Vineland.
Melanie Pirollo, administrative director of cancer services for Inspira Health Network, said such municipal action will help deter smoking and the illnesses it causes. The bans create yet another layer of anti-smoking messages, she said.
That could be aided by a state measure that would impose smoking bans in public parks and on beaches.
A bill that would create that ban was released last week by the Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee. Bill advocates said the ban will help improve public health and reduce pollution, such as cigarette butts, on beaches.
The proposed state ban includes penalties that are more costly than the ones in Vineland and Lawrence Township.
Violators would be charged $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
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