October 18, 2021
Both Must Now Make Clear How They Plan to Convince Sweeney to Take Action
Polistina: “The exemption needs to end..hopefully we can get back to Trenton after this election and we can get it done”
Mazzeo: “I’m in agreement…the health and welfare of the people who work in the casinos is more important.”
Atlantic City, NJ — Pressure for Senate President Steve Sweeney to advance the smokefree Atlantic City casinos bill, S1878/A4541, during the upcoming lame duck legislative session is growing after it became clear last night that the next senator representing Atlantic City and surrounding areas supports closing the casino loophole. In a debate held last night between Senate District 2 candidates Vince Mazzeo and Vince Polistina, here’s what they said:
Polistina: “The exemption needs to end. I know the Governor supports it, so hopefully we can get back to Trenton after this election and we can get it done, because those people deserve clean air and a healthy, safe work environment.”
Mazzeo: “And I’m in agreement. And we have to try to continue to make sure that we ban smoking in the casinos…at the end of the day, I believe the health and welfare of the people who work in the casinos is more important.”
“The debate over smoking in casinos has changed — and Senator Sweeney should listen to the thousands of voices from Atlantic City — including their next state senator — who want action to close the casino loophole in the lame duck session,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “It’s past time to close the casino loophole and prioritize the lives of employees, who should not have to choose between their health and a paycheck. We urge both Polistina and Mazzeo make clear how they plan to convince Senator Sweeney to take action in Trenton.”
“Words are fine, but we need action. Our elected leaders, and those hoping to represent us in Trenton, cannot say the right thing over these next two weeks and then sit on their hands in Trenton,” said Nicole Vitola, an Atlantic City dealer and co-leader of Casinos Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects (CEASE). “We need immediate action in the lame duck session so that my fellow casino workers and I are no longer forced to breathe harmful secondhand smoke. We need to know how Polistina and Mazzeo plan to convince Senator Sweeney to advance smokefree casino legislation to Gov. Murphy’s desk to ensure we are not forgotten about after November 2.”
Thousands of casino workers have organized themselves and started speaking out since indoor smoking returned to casino on July 4th, which has lead to Governor Murphy saying unequivocally that he supports legislation to close the casino loophole and to the City of Atlantic City going on record supporting state action to close the casino loophole. Senator Sweeney is the only major holdout, and his position is becoming further and further out-of-step.
Transcript — Oct. 17 Debate Between Vince Mazzeo and Vince Polistina
WATCH THE VIDEO (go to 57:41 mark)
David Wildstein: Mr. Mazzeo, my question’s about the ban of smoking inside casinos. The fault of neither of you, the more stories I read about this issue the Press of Atlantic City the more confused I am as to where everybody stands. So let’s hit a reset button. Do you support banning smoking in casinos – yes or no?
Vince Mazzeo: Yes.
DW: Mr. Polistina?
Vince Polistina: Yeah, I mean we have been clear on this. He’s now coming late to the game and, you know, finally to the table. We have been clear on this from the start. There’s no reason – there was no smoking while the pandemic was going on while people were wearing masks in the casinos. Casinos did fine. There’s no reason why that exemption should still exist. You’re not allowed to smoke on the boardwalk. You’re not allowed to smoke on the beach. There’s no reason now why people would be smoking in these Atlantic City casinos. The exemption needs to end. I know the Governor supports it, so hopefully we can get back to Trenton after this election and we can get it done, because those people deserve clean air and a healthy, safe work environment.
DW: Mr. Mazzeo?
VM: Yeah, during the COVID the Governor was going to lift the ban, and we made calls to the Governor’s office to make sure that that was extended even further. And as far as the banning on the boardwalks and the beaches, that was my legislation that I did. And I’m in agreement. And we have to try to continue to make sure that we ban smoking in the casinos.
VP: That’s an epiphany from over two weeks ago, because two weeks ago he wanted to talk to Pennsylvania and others about the issue. There’s no reason for this now, we’ve got to be done with it.
DW: Mr. Mazzeo, let me give you ten more seconds.
VM: We’ll there’s always, if that’s a way we can resolve this, as far as talking to other people. You know, we are the majority in New Jersey, so we can talk to other legislatures. It is a competitive – there’s four people, four players involved here. But, you know, at the end of the day, I believe the health and welfare of the people who work in the casinos is more important.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.