TRENTON — Smoking is banned on New Jersey's beaches and boardwalks under a new law in effect this month. The statewide law goes into effect during the slower winter season on January 16.

Fines start at $250 for a first offense and go up to $1,000 for a third offense. The ban also includes vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes. Under the law, municipalities or counties are allowed to create a small smoking area on a beach (not exceeding 15 percent of the total area).

Back when Murphy signed the law in July, he called it a "tremendous day" for those concerned about the cleanliness of the beaches. The Governor held the ceremony ocean-side in Long Branch, which was among the first in New Jersey to enact a municipal level smoke-free beach policy.

An annual beach sweep report by Clean Ocean Action shows beachfront litter collected by volunteers in 2017 included more than 29,000 cigarette butts, over 1,150 lighters, nearly 1,900 empty cigarette packs and 7,172 cigar tips. At the law signing, Murphy noted that "Cigarette butts threaten marine wildlife as a choking hazard and are capable of leeching deadly toxins." A 2018 Beach Sweeps Annual Report will be released in March.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), previously told New Jersey 101.5 that "New Jersey is the first state in the union to have a law than bans smoking and vaping at all state, county and local parks and beaches. New Jersey leads once again."

The law is an extension of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006, which prohibited smoking at any indoor public space or workplace. Blumenfeld added the Act allows local, county and state health department officials and cops to enforce the law. Murphy said as beachfront towns decide on the smoking ban enforcement, it shouldn't be left to lifeguards.

Dan Alexander contributed to this report.

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