Ocean County Press Release

IN THE WAKE of the brush fires that struck Berkeley Township and Toms River, Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari is again urging motorists not to toss cigarette butts out of their vehicle windows.

"Burning cigarettes are a hazard to our woodlands," Vicari said. "One single cigarette butt can lead to a blazing forest fire and can put lives and property in danger."

Unfortunately, it has become a common practice for smokers to toss their used cigarettes and cigars out the window because most new cars don't include ashtrays, Vicari said.

"If you are going to smoke in the car please buy a fireproof ashtray or other container that can be safely emptied into a proper receptacle," Vicari said.

While the cause of the huge brush fire that threatened homes near the Berkeley-Beachwood border is still under investigation, Vicari said it doesn't take much imagination to see the danger of a burning cigarette flying from a car and landing in dry brush anywhere in the county.

"Think before you flick that cigarette butt out the window," he said.

Discarded cigarettes pose other environmental hazards as well.

Cigarette butts often find their way into storm drains that empty into the Barnegat Bay.

"One of the biggest problems facing the bay is the tremendous amount of cigarette butts that is washed into the waterway," Vicari said. "One cigarette may not seem like much, but thousands upon thousands are damaging this vital body of water."

Ocean County deploys a small fleet of jetvac trucks to clean storms drains, but Vicari said the job would be easier if people didn't throw cigarettes and other trash into the road.

"Please don't use our streets as ashtrays," he said.

Throwing litter - including cigarettes - from a vehicle is also a violation of New Jersey state law and carries a fine of up to $1,000.

Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, said the pollution from cigarette butts would not be a problem if people refrained from smoking in their vehicles.

A Harvard School of Public Health report said secondhand smoke in cars can be up to 10 times more of a health risk than secondhand smoke in a home.

"Lighting up a cigarette is never a good idea but smoking in a car is even worse," Little said.

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