Smoking extinguished at Moorestown’s parks

In the coming weeks, Moorestown’s Department of Parks and Recreation will put up signage to inform park goers that smoking is strictly prohibited at Moorestown’s public parks.

Smokers thinking about lighting up at Moorestown’s parks should look elsewhere. Mayor Lisa Petriello discussed the steps Moorestown is taking to enforce the state ban on smoking in public parks at the most recent meeting of Moorestown Township Council.

Gov. Murphy signed off on revisions to the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006,” which makes smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes and using any smokeless tobacco devices illegal in New Jersey’s public parks, forests and beaches. The law went into effect as of Jan. 16.

Under the bill, the state Department of Environmental Protection, towns and counties can fine offenders $250 for their first offense, $500 for their second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

In the coming weeks, Moorestown’s Department of Parks and Recreation will put up signage to inform park-goers that smoking is strictly prohibited at Moorestown’s public parks. Local police will be responsible for enforcement.

“I’m pretty excited to be moving forward with this [in] our community,” Petriello said.

The law holds particular significance for Petriello, who has advocated for a ban on smoking in Moorestown’s parks for years. Prior to her time on council, Petriello approached Sustainable Moorestown, the Recreation Advisory Committee and Save The Environment of Moorestown to garner support for a ban.

During her time on council, Petriello advocated for a ban on smoking in public parks, but nothing ever happened. She said she was in the process of putting a similar ban on the agenda, when she realized Moorestown’s parks are covered under the state law.

“I think it’s a good thing for our community, for our health and for the health of our environment,” Petriello said.

Councilwoman Nicole Gillespie clarified the ban also encompasses “other matter that can be smoked.”

“Given other laws that are in the works in New Jersey, I think that’s important to note as well,” Gillespie said.

Councilman Michael Locatell said he liked the idea of kids on the sports fields having clean air while competing. However, he expressed his dismay about governance at the state level “micromanaging” local towns. Locatell said he finds state laws dictating how the township manages its fields and parks “concerning.”

“It just seems really like not something the state should be involved in at that level,” Locatell said.

Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano said while the subject matter of this bill is innocuous, she agreed with Locatell’s sentiment.

“It sets a precedent I don’t care for,” Napolitano said.

Petriello said, to date, Moorestown was something of an “outlier” with many of the surrounding communities having already banned smoking in their public parks. Burlington County banned smoking in the county’s public parks in 2013.

“I think we’re just kind of keeping in step with the communities around us,” Petriello said.

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Town Hall.