At what point do laws enacted in the interest of public health and safety overreach the commonsense boundaries of citizens’ free wills and rights to live life how they see fit? Some say a proposed law that would ban smoking in New Jersey public parks and beaches is a smart move for the betterment of all, while others say it’s just too much.
Two measures now sit before N.J. Gov. Chris Christie after being passed by lawmakers. One of them would ban smoking in parks and on beaches, and the other would raise the legal minimum purchasing age for tobacco products to 21.
“It’s a big government overreach,” said Senator Kevin O’Toole (R- Cedar Grove) who voted no on the bans. “If you’re going to make smoking the evil of the 21st century or you want to ban it altogether, just ban it. You can’t treat people like pariahs. It’s a legal activity and people have a right to do it.”
Cigarette butts are one of the largest contributors to litter. Also, their smoke contributes to illness and inconvenience among those people who choose not to smoke but must be in its presence. These are just a few reasons to ban tobacco products in public places. Though they aren’t exactly completely justifiable.
Christie has yet to signal his intentions on the laws and says they will go through a “usual course of review.”
“I don’t think the government needs to be involved,” said Bryan Adamson, 32, of Blairstown according to Reuters. “As a smoker I use common sense and respect for the environment and those around me.”
For Adamson and others like him, the outdoors represent one of few remaining places to smoke aside from personal residences.
These aren’t the first restrictive tobacco laws for New Jersey. More than 200 cities and towns within the state already have restrictions on tobacco use in parks. It was the first state to ban smoking in college dorms and led the nation in restaurants and bars passing similar rules.
When it comes to lowering the legal age, there could be even greater resistance. If 18 year olds are old enough to enlist in the military, potentially sacrificing their lives, shouldn’t they be old enough to take the risks associated with smoking?