Gloucester Township goes smoke-free in its parks and public places

Over 150 Smoke Free signs have been posted throughout the parks and public places. The smoking ban coincides with Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Gloucester Township is officially smoke-free in its parks and public places.

Mayor Dave Mayer and council passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking in those areas, and they recently added more than 150 smoke free signs throughout the parks and public places, including the recreation center and public works building. While the was passed in July, the township started the smoking ban in November to coincide with Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

“It has been one of the GTPD Project SAVE Goals to make these areas smoke free to help improve the health of our residents,” Police Lt. Brendan Barton said.

Mayer said when the police department launched its Substance Ab-Use Victimization Effort in May 2014, the township was the first in the state to put a drug counselor in its municipal court.

“The whole purpose is to give those who are suffering from the disease, help,” he said. “We’re doing that, but when we launched, one of the goals was to reduce smoking.”

Gloucester Township partnered with Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, which provided the new smoke free signs. The organization provides resources for communities interested in decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke in public areas.

“Our goal is not just to pass a policy in the town, we want to make the town better,” said Kim Burns, southern regional coordinator for Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey. “In South Jersey, all of our counties have the highest smoking rate in the state, according to the county health rankings. Camden County is 15 percent, which is a little higher than the state average.”

Burns spoke at a Gloucester Township council meeting earlier this year to answer questions about the policy, and she said the question asked the most was about enforcement.

“We liken it to dog laws,” she explained. “If your dog uses the bathroom, you pick up after that. There isn’t a police office right out there; it’s more of a self-enforcement. That’s where the signs come in.”

Those who smoke in the prohibited areas will be subjected to a minimum fine of $25 but not to exceed $50.

She said they consulted every department that would be affected by the smoking ban.

“We took some considerations for employees that smoke and what accommodations they (Gloucester Township) were going to make for them,” Burns said.

Mayer believes most people are aware of the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, and implementing this policy will make the township’s parks and public places an even better place for its residents.

“In today’s day, we know that secondhand smoke is dangerous, and we know that it leads to various complications and diseases,” he said. “I think that when you go to a park, you are enjoying the fresh air, enjoying the outside, and you don’t expect to be breathing in secondhand smoke. It’s very significant for the health and welfare of the community.”