TRENTON, New Jersey — Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a measure to limit smoking in the state's parks and beaches.
In his veto message released Wednesday night, Christie pointed to numerous municipalities that have already banned smoking in their parks and beaches, and argued the issue is better left to local officials to decide for their constituents.
"While I appreciate the sponsors' concerns regarding the health risks poses by smoking and secondhand smoke, I am not persuaded that a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all State ban on smoking in public parks and beaches is advisable at this time," he wrote.
Smoking would have been banned at parks and limited at beaches under the bill approved by the state Senate and Assembly in June. It garnered overwhelming support in both chambers.
The bill aimed to reduce secondhand smoke exposure, cut down on litter and curtail fire risks. Violators would have been fined at least $250 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for repeated violations.
The Senate's health committee chair had called the measure a "great compromise" at the time of its passage, noting the Assembly had previously passed a bill that called for an outright ban on smoking at beaches.
Christie's decision was sharply criticized by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, one of the bill's sponsors.
"This is extremely unfortunate from both a public health perspective and from an environmental perspective," she said in a statement issued shortly after the veto was announced. "I would have hoped the governor would have joined the overwhelming majority of the legislature who supported this bill by standing up for the public's best interests."
Several shore towns including Belmar, Seaside Heights, Long Branch already ban smoking.
More than 200 coastal communities across the country have enacted total smoking bans on their beaches, with more implementing partial bans, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.