Pequannock Council Reintroduces Revamped Smoking Ban

A revamped smoking cigarettes ban ordinance was introduced at the Township Council's July 12 meeting that features a graduated system of penalties for violations as well as language that will remove the designated smoking cigarettes area at PV Park.

Under the re-introduced ban, a person caught smoking cigarettes at a park where it is prohibited would face a $50 fine for the first time, $75 for the second, and a $100 fine for the third.

On the second and third offenses, community service would also be part of the punishment.

The designated smoking cigarettes area at PV Park would also be abolished. Township Manager Dave Hollberg said that the caveat had been a part of the original agreement that banned smoking cigarettes at the lake some years ago and would contradict the current ordinance.

More discussion… again

The council discussed the ordinance at length once again, and this time, one of the ordinance's main drivers, Health Officer Pete Correale, was on hand to make an impassioned plea in support of as broad a ban as possible.

Correale said that similar laws have been posted in 115 New Jersey towns, as well as New York City, and that the goal is not so much directly related to reducing health impacts on non-smokers as it is to changing how people, and especially children, look at smoking cigarettes in general.

"The crux is (that) when a child is not exposed to someone who is a model adult smoker, he tends not to smoke," Correale said, adding that he doesn't support the "micromanaging" of the ban, such as prohibitions in some areas of some parks but not others.

"It's not about the smoker's rights. It's about how you change the paradigm of society, how you get to the next generation that is smokeless," he said. "You don't do that by saying, 'We don't think it's good to smoke, but we'll let you smoke cigarettes right over there.' That sends a mixed signal to children."

He also dismissed the idea that the prohibition would be difficult to enforce and said that it is as enforceable as any of the township's other laws and would be enforced on a complaint basis.

"We're not going to go into parks and sit there and look for smokers," he said.

To further illustrate the depth of the problem, Mayor Rich Phelan brought in a half-dozen zippered baggies loaded with cigarette butts that he and Correale had picked up from different parks in about an hour's worth of time.

Harsher penalties

Councilwoman Cathy Winterfield said that she remained uncomfortable with the way the previous ordinance was written, with its prohibiting smoking cigarettes at several local parks such as Greenview, Riverside, Foothills, and PV Park, but not at others like Woodland Lake or Mountainside Park.

The reasoning for this was that while children tend to gather and play at the former parks, they don't congregate at the latter ones because there is no playground equipment or the like.

However, Winterfield said that she thought banning smoking cigarettes at some but not others is "sending a mixed message" about the health risks of smoking cigarettes and that if the council is going to ban smoking cigarettes, it should do so across the board.

She also suggested a penalty system that increased fines incrementally, establishing community service as one of the punishments for a second or third offense.

Much of the council balked at the proposition; however, Councilwoman Melissa Florance-Lynch said she liked the more gradual approach.

Councilman Ed Engelbart agreed with Florance-Lynch and said that it would be important for the correct signage to be posted so visitors to the parks know that they're smoke-free environments.

Councilman Jay Vanderhoff continued to voice concerns about the ban, especially because of the enforcement difficulties that he has addressed in the past month.

He also said that he feels there is a line on where government should stop and that although he doesn't support smoking cigarettes, he doesn't see many residents coming forward to say that it was a problem in the parks.

"It's another step for government enforcing almost, basically, everyday regulations on people," he said.

However, he was part of the unanimous vote to reintroduce the ordinance, this time with the graduated penalties and the abolishment of the designated zones.