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Let New Jersey be the nanny state

Aug 8, 2014


By Jeb Bladine
Of the News-Register


All WhatchamaColumns                    

We await word on whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will sign legislation to ban smoking on all but 15 percent of that state’s ocean beaches. He has until this weekend, reports Cherry Hill’s Courier-Post, “to sign it, veto it or return it to lawmakers with suggested changes. If he does nothing, it will take effect in six months.”

Perhaps as New Jersey goes, so goes Oregon. After all, we are the only two states where you can’t pump your own gas.

Oregon already has banned smoking in state parks except in personal vehicles, tents and overnight campsites. Now, the state Parks and Recreation Commission is seeking citizen input about a smoking ban along 362 miles of Pacific coastline.

In its Wednesday editorial, the Courier-Post cited irritating smoke and offensive odor; thousands of deaths and annual costs of $6 billion from health problems linked to secondhand smoke; tens of thousands of cigarette butts polluting the sand and endangering fish and marine mammals.

“Christie can signal that we are worthy stewards of New Jersey’s natural resources,” the editorial concluded. “We’ll all breathe easier.”

Nearly 3,000 miles away in Portland, The Oregonian took a far different position, tipping its hand with a large headline calling Oregon’s proposed beach smoking ban “laughable, unenforceable and easily avoided.”

“Prepare, relentlessly demonized Oregon smokers,” the editorial began, “for the practice of your supposedly legal habit to be banned along a vast area raked by wind and dominated by two substances that don’t burn: water and sand.”

Debate points go to The Oregonian in this round: Concerns about secondhand smoke in those immense oceans of air seem silly; a ban based on littered cigarette butts would need to evolve into bans on paper plates, plastic cups, wrappers for hot dogs and marshmallows, as well as dogs.

All that said, New Jersey has miles of boardwalks and some incredibly crowded beach areas that probably should have some smoking restrictions, and Oregon arguably has beach areas where smoking limits would offer welcome relief during high-crowd times. But the great majority of Oregon beach land is a place of solitary strolls and isolated campfires.

Enforce littering laws, to be sure, on beaches and in downtowns. Enforce existing Oregon law that bans smoking within 10 feet of doors, windows or ventilation intakes serving any enclosed area open to the public.

But when it comes to beaches, let New Jersey, not Oregon, be the No. 1 nanny state.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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