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(Cherry Hill, N.J.) – Smoke-free Township property and public lands could soon become law, under a proposed policy change announced Thursday by Mayor Chuck Cahn.
The proposed law, aimed at eliminating secondhand smoke from all Township-owned facilities and public lands, was outlined at an event Thursday afternoon at DeCou Park, one of 52 parks and recreational facilities that would be affected by the change.
If adopted, the law will ban smoking at all Cherry Hill parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities, and on all Township trails and open spaces. It would also apply to all Township-owned buildings, including Municipal Complex, the Department of Public Works, the Cherry Hill Public Library, Croft Farm and Barclay Farmstead.
“This is a significant policy change,” Cahn said. “It’s a change that carries real enforcement power for the Cherry Hill Police Department, and one that I believe will promote health and wellness throughout this community.”
“Our residents deserve to breathe clean air,” Cahn added.
An ordinance approving the creation of these “smoke-free zones” was introduced to Township Council on Nov. 8. A public hearing and Council vote are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26. The law would take effect 20 days after adoption of the ordinance.
In addition to removing harmful secondhand smoke from public areas, the smoking ban would help eliminate litter from public grounds, reduce maintenance costs, and improve air quality. The ordinance formalizes an existing smoke-free policy adopted in 2005 and includes provisions for enforcement. Violators could face fines of up to $150 for a first offense, with increased fines for repeat offenses.
Following Council adoption, signs will be posted at each facility clearly identifying it as a smoke-free zone. The signs will be purchased through a partnership with Tobacco-Free for a Healthy New Jersey and the American Cancer Society, at no cost to Cherry Hill taxpayers, Cahn said.
Mayor Cahn was also joined Thursday by Cherry Hill East High School’s “East Students Against Tobacco” group, which presented the Township with a $1,000 donation that will be used to personalize the purchased signs.
A 30-day educational campaign and warning period will begin when the law takes effect. Formal enforcement will begin after that introductory phase, early in 2013.
“In the end, our goal is behavior modification,” Cahn said. “We want to establish smoke-free living as the ‘norm’ in Cherry Hill. My hope is that a written warning will be enough to deter a smoker from violating the law again, but after the first 30 days, residents are on notice. We will enforce the law.”
The announcement coincided with the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smoke-Out. Cahn encouraged residents who smoke to take steps and kick the habit for their own health.
Residents who want to quit can receive free support through the NJ Quitline at (866) 657-8677, or online at www.njquitline.org. Local support and information is available through the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services at (856) 374-6363.
A public hearing and Council vote on the Ordinance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, in the Cherry Hill Township Municipal Building. As always, members of the public are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Questions can be directed to the Mayor’s Office at (856) 488-7878, or to MayorCahn@chtownship.com.