MILLSTONE — A group of township teens who urged the Township Committee to ban smoking in local parks won the support of at least one elected official.
At last week’s committee meeting, four Allentown High School students, who all live in the township, asked the committee to adopt legislation to make those who would smoke in public parks subject to punishment.
Soon-to-be sophomore Ashley Toms, the first of the four to address the committee, cited statistics that told the committee the number of adults and children adversely affected by second-hand smoke.
"Just imagine how many more kids are exposed to second-hand smoke in the parks and fields of Millstone Township everyday," she said.
The girls were accompanied by their parents, who also spoke in support of a ban, but met with some opposition from residents in the crowd.
Pullen Drive resident James Andrew Connelly, who opposed a ban, said he felt the need to "stand in recognition of personal freedom," while acknowledging the health risks associated with cigarette smoke.
"I also recognize that we live in a free society. Government strictures on individual liberty are excessive and continue to inhibit our ability to live freely," he said.
Agress Road resident Helen Varvi, who serves on the municipal alliance to prevent alcoholism and drug abuse, said that since smoking is allowed in local parks, non-smokers have no choice but to breathe in second-hand smoke when smokers are near.
"I would strongly encourage [a ban] as an individual citizen," she said.
Amanda Duncan, an employee from Prevention First, Oakhurst, told the committee that a handful of other Monmouth County towns have already banned smoking in local parks, and several are considering the measure.
"Yes, a smoker has rights, but so does a non-smoker," she said.
Duncan also said that if smoking was prohibited in local parks, it would be easier to keep them clean and cut down on litter such as cigarette butts.
Committeeman John Pfefferkorn told the girls that he was behind their idea.
"If you get me that resolution, I’ll introduce it," he said.