On Wednesday evening, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill outlawing smoking in public parks and limiting it on beaches in the state.
The measure had gotten nearly unanimous, bipartisan backing in both chambers of the state legislature, and both environmental and public health groups supported it.
"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," Christie said in a statement on the veto.
He framed it as an issue of state versus local control. "Too often, policy-makers at more centralized levels of government encroach into areas of public policy previously reserved for more localized governing bodies," he wrote. "I do not believe that the state should substitute its judgment for that of our local elected officials or upset the careful balancing of interests that informs the decision-making process at the local level."
Ethan Hasbrouck, the New Jersey government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said in a statement that he is "disappointed" in the veto and hopes the legislature will override it. "If enacted, the law would allow New Jerseyans and our state’s visitors to enjoy our beautiful beaches and parks without putting their health and lives at risk," he said.
NJ.com reports that around 240 towns in the state have already banned smoking in parks, and at least a dozen have prohibitions against smoking on beaches. In addition to the health concerns, the bill's environmental backers also argue that it would protect parks and beaches from litter and potential fires sparked by lit cigarettes.