Local Authority Resolution Project -- Summary

This is a project to protect New Jersey local governments from challenges to their authority to protect public health. New Jersey local governments are being thwarted by a powerful, national campaign that has challenged the right of local governments. This project asks local governments, health organizations, and others to pass a resolution supporting the authority of local governments to enact smokefree indoor air legislation.

Tobacco use kills 13,000 New Jersey smokers and nonsmokers every year. New Jersey local governments, health organizations, and others have fought hard to protect citizens, especially children, from tobacco.

New Jersey local governments lead the nation in ordinances to eliminate tobacco vending machines and to mandate smokefree air outdoors in playgrounds and parks. But eleven New Jersey municipalities were sued by the tobacco industry for their vending machine bans and, though all the towns prevailed, East Brunswick had to fight all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court to protect its ordinance.

In June 2000, Princeton passed New Jersey’s first comprehensive smokefree indoor air ordinance for workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars. But the Township and Borough were sued by the tobacco industry plus two restaurants and a bar and, in September 2000, the Mercer County Superior Court struck down Princeton’s ordinance, ruling that state law preempted (prohibited) Princeton’s local legislation.

Now many other New Jersey local governing bodies and local boards of health report that they are interested in enacting smokefree indoor air ordinances, including comprehensive ordinances, but are uncertain about their authority and fear a lawsuit like Princeton’s. And Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, who has introduced legislation to restore local authority, has asked for proof of municipal demand. That’s why this project was created.

The goal of the project is to have resolutions that support local authority be enacted by local governments, statewide organizations, civic groups, religious congregations, businesses, and others. April 30, 2004, is the proposed deadline for returning resolutions to New Jersey GASP, which is tracking resolutions. Public release is scheduled for late May, in observance of World No Tobacco Day. Then the New Jersey Legislature, the Governor, the media, and the public will be asked to support local authority.

Most other states don’t preempt local smokefree air legislation. In fact, 1,700 local governments throughout the United States have enacted smokefree air laws. New Jersey municipalities that want to eliminate this Class a carcinogen from the air we breathe should be free to do so.

Partners in this project include the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association, New Jersey GASP, the New Jersey Prevention Network and its county Community Against Tobacco coalitions, and New Jersey Health Officers Association, and New Jersey Breathes, the statewide coalition with more than 50 members including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Medical Society of New Jersey.