BELMAR, N.J. – It's not the second-hand smoke they're worried about. It's the cigarette butts.
Belmar officials are poised to adopt an ordinance that would ban smoking on the beach except in designated areas, making it the first ocean beach in New Jersey with such restrictions.
Smoking along the borough's mile-long beach would be limited to 100-foot wide strips where disposable ashtrays are provided. Violators could be fined $25.
A vote on the measure was set for 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"The intent is to deal with the litter problem," said Mayor Kenneth Pringle. "Cigarette butts are our single biggest litter problem on the beach. They're too small for our beach rakes to pick up. Kids pick them up. They've been in people's mouths. And we want to contain where that happens."
No fences will be erected around the smoking areas, he said. In the first year after the ordinance's passage, smokers will be given warnings before being cited, Pringle said.
"The goal is not to give out tickets. The goal is to limit litter," he said.
Belmar is not the first municipality to take aim on beach smoking.
In 1996, Mount Olive in Morris County enacted a smoking ban on all publicly owned land, including the beach at Budd Lake. Beach-smoking bans have also been passed in Carmel, N.Y.; Sharon, Mass., and Honolulu.
"It's not a bad thing, not when you're seeing butts wash up in the water," said Mount Olive Township Clerk Lisa Lashway, who is a smoker.