New Jersey Legislature Enacts Strongest Smokefree Dorm Bill In The Nation
NJ GASP Press Release
Publication Date: 2005-06-20
Today, the New Jersey Assembly voted in favor of the Smokefree College Residential Housing Law, sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg (A3659), and Senators Barbara Buono and Fred H. Madden (S2332). The bill now heads to the Governor’s Desk for his signature, and will take effect 60 days later.
“New Jersey’s Smokefree College Residential Housing Law is the strongest legislation in the nation to prohibit smoking in college residential housing. It covers BOTH private and public institutions of higher education. We are pleased that our State is taking this leadership role in fire prevention and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke”, says Karen Blumenfeld, Esq., Director of the Tobacco Control Policy & Legal Resource Center, for New Jersey GASP.
Only two other states enacted specific legislation banning smoking in college residential housing: Wisconsin makes University of Wisconsin housing smokefree, and Connecticut requires all public college dormitories to be smokefree. Last week, the Tennessee legislature passed a state law allowing public universities to ban smoking in dorms if they choose to.
New Jersey’s law is important because it can help reduce fires in college dormitories. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is one of the top causes of fires in college student housing (see attachment). After cooking, smoking is the leading cause of fire injuries on college campuses, says the United States Fire Association. The American College Health Association also encourages its 900-member colleges and universities to ban smoking in campus owned and sanctioned housing.
On February 14, 2005, a cigarette ignited a dorm fire at Drew University brought attention about the dangers of smoking in college residential housing. Other New Jersey colleges allow smoking in residential housing. Monmouth University’s policy permits smoking in private rooms, semi-private bedrooms, and lounges provided that all occupants approve, in the CIT residence halls, and smoking is banned in the Oakwood and Redwood Hall lounges.
In New Jersey, some colleges and universities have smokefree dormitory policies. In February of 2005, Princeton University decided to make all dorms smokefree for autumn 2005; Princeton officials blame smoking for 35 fire alarms per year on campus. Montclair State University’s policy requires smokefree dorms, starting autumn 2005. Seton Hall University, Fairleigh Dickinson and Ramapo College all have policies that require their residence halls be smokefree. Ramapo even requires smokers to be at least 25 feet from the entrance to any campus building when smoking.
New Jersey’s Smokefree College Residential Housing Law makes smokefree any building used as a student dormitory that is owned and operated, or otherwise used by a institution of higher education. The school administration, police officer or public servant shall enforce the regulation, and post signs at the entrances. Fines are: $100 for the smoker; $25 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense, and $200 for each subsequent offense for the administrator or person in control of the premises who knowingly fails or refuse to comply. Enforcement is by written citizen complaint filed with the NJ Department of Health or local board of health. N.J.S.A. 26:3D-17 through 20.
Karen Blumenfeld, Esq.
Director of Policy & Legal Resource Center, New Jersey GASP