Smokefree Outdoor Environments

Outdoor smoking is a public health hazard. Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure outdoors can harm nonsmokers, plus smoking materials harm the environment. Concentrations of outdoor secondhand smoke can be as high as indoor concentrations, depending on where the smoking is taking place and the amount of secondhand smoke present.

Throughout the United States, hundreds of local governments have enacted smokefree air legislation for outdoor areas, especially recreational facilities like parks, playgrounds, and beaches, as well as school grounds and near buildings.

Hundreds of New Jersey communities have laws or policies that restrict smoking in their parks and recreational areas, and around government buildings and property. In New Jersey, the majority of communities make all parks and recreational areas 100% smokefree; some have partial bans. New York City banned smoking at all public parks and recreational areas including pedestrian plazas, beaches, boardwalks and much more, as of May 2011.

Read GASP’s continually updated, internationally-recognized white paper, Smokefree Outdoor Recreational Areas. It discusses how outdoor smoking bans benefit public health and the environment, can reduce park clean-up costs and litter, and the studies and caselaw that support smokefree parks. Also, download our tri-fold brochure which outlines the benefits of smokefree parks, recreation areas & outdoor public places.

Read GASP's list of all New Jersey municipalities and counties that restrict smoking in parks and recreational areas, sorted by county. If you would like detailed information on a specific law or policy, or technical assistance on smokefree parks and recreational areas, contact GASP at 908-273-9368 or GASP can also connect you with local partners to provide technical assistance on smokefree parks and recreational areas.

NJDOH Commissioner Mary O'Dowd's March 2013 newsletter, NJ Health Matters, highlights local and county smokefree parks activity. The article, "Smokefree Air Ordinances Proliferating", features a photo of Paterson City Council President Anthony E. Davis with Paterson coalition member Lakeshia Evans and her daughter Scotland, celebrating the smokefree parks ribbon-cutting ceremony at at Paterson's 100% smokefree Eastside Park. Read our 2012 Success Story with 100% smokefree parks in Passaic County, NJ.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports smokefree parks. On August 6, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the "Protecting Your Children from Tobacco" webpage which provides recommendations to parents on how to help children stay tobacco-free. Included in the category "What your Community Can Do to Help Prevent Youth Tobacco Use" is to "Ban smoking in public places—such as workplaces, schools... and parks".

Outdoor smokefree ordinance upheld in court. The US District Court of Appeals For the 8th Circuit, which represents Eastern Missouri, upheld the lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit involving a plaintiff who challenged a city ordinance in Clayton which prohibits outdoor smoking in city parks. Both court decisions support the right of municipalities to pass ordinances restricting smoking in outdoor public places. Read the November 8, 2012 court decision from the case.

Communities make business district sidewalks and areas smokefree. Merchants complain that secondhand smoke enters into their storefronts which makes customers complain. As of January 2011, Great Neck, Long Island (New York) prohibits smoking on sidewalks in front of commercial buildings, Village Green park, the Housing Authority, and on benches in municipal parking lots; fines are up to $1,000, as per the CNN Story. On September 27, 2011, Concord City, California enacted an ordinance requiring a 17-block downtown business district be 100% smokefree, including banning the use of e-cigarettes. Internationally, bans are also proliferating to protect people in heavily populated areas like the capital city of Gangnam, South Korea, which designated a busy section of Main Street smokefree as per this news article.

Hospitals, businesses and colleges are instituting 100% smokefree campus policies. Read more about smokefree college campuses.

New Jersey has enacted legislation and regulations that require outdoor smokefree environments:

Voluntary Outdoor Smokefree Policies; Public Support

Many business owners have instituted 100% smokefree outdoor policies for their properties. In New Jersey, this includes the outdoor seating and pedestrian areas in the Meadowlands Sports Complex. College campuses are starting to implement 100% smokefree campus policies, and at least 100 hospital campuses in New Jersey have a 100% smokefree policy.

Public support is growing for outdoor bans. Read a letter to the editor supporting an outdoor smoking ban at the Somerville, NJ car show.

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Last update: 10/9/13