The Cape May City Council has — at least temporarily — rejected an ordinance that completely bans smoking at its beaches, promenade and municipal parks.

Monday night’s council vote was 2-2, with the fifth member absent from the meeting. If approved, the ordinance would have resulted in fines for violators that range from $100 to 1,250. Repeat offenders could have faced 90 days of community service, or up to 90 days’ imprisonment.

Karen Blumenfeld, executive director of Global Advisors on Smokefree Policy (GASP), notes that a partial smoking ban is already in effect in the resort town. Still, she’s disappointed, because a more powerful ordinance could have set a statewide trend. “Other communities in New Jersey have done this already, but many more are interested in doing so.”

Blumenfeld says this is an important health matter. “Smoking and secondhand smoke is the number one cause of preventable disease. It affects everyone, especially senior citizens with different heart and lung conditions that are very susceptible to even small amounts of secondhand smoke. Children are also at risk.”

Opponents of the ban claim that it would have infringed on people’s personal liberty to light up, and may end up having a negative effect on Cape May’s tourism business.

Blumenfeld counters those arguments. “Once behavior is going to negatively affect the health of another, then policies that protect public health are necessary.”

More than 100 New Jersey communities restrict smoking in municipal parks and recreation areas. There are several communities along the Jersey Shore that have smoking bans at its beaches: Sunset Beach in Lower Township, Seaside Park, Long Branch and Ocean Grove. Belmar banned smoking on its boardwalk in 2001, and Seaside Park has a boardwalk smoking ban as well.

Cape May officials have not revealed a timetable to revisit the issue.