September 23, 2021
Gov. Murphy: “If Legislation Comes to My Desk to Ban Smoking, You Should Assume That I Will Sign It”
Governor’s Clearest Answer Yet Puts Pressure On Senator Sweeney & Other Legislators to Send a Bill to His Desk
Atlantic City, NJ – In his clearest answer yet, Governor Murphy this week said he would sign legislation to make Atlantic City casinos permanently smokefree, a move that would finally close the casino loophole and stop forcing gaming workers to choose between their health and a paycheck. During an interview with News 12 on Tuesday, Governor Murphy responded to a viewer-submitted question from an Atlantic City casino worker:
Charmane, Atlantic City: “Why is smoking still allowed in the casinos? Secondhand smoke is deadly and during a pandemic!!! Why?”
Governor Murphy: “So, there was a period of time due to the public health emergency where we did not allow that in the casinos. But at a certain point, that was always going to expire, and it did expire, I think it might have literally expired on July 4th. But I’ve said this unequivocally, Charmane, that if legislation comes my way — I need now a law to sign in order to actually make that permanent. So if legislation comes to my desk that would ban smoking in casinos, you should assume that I will sign it.”
“We are grateful for the Governor’s clear answer that he would sign legislation to close the casino loophole and protect the health of gaming employees while they are at work,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “However, we know that Senate President Sweeney, in particular, stands in the way. The Governor must go further and publicly call for Senator Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin to send a bill to his desk in the lame duck session. Atlantic City casino workers cannot wait any longer.”
This is not the first time Governor Murphy has indicated he could sign such legislation into law, but it is his clearest answer yet and removes any doubt that he would sign the bill. Previously, in June, the Governor said, “Would I be open-minded, would I be constructive on legislation, because I need to do this statutorily, that could come to me in the future, to extend that ban or make it more permanent? I would be very constructive on that.” In May, when the temporary smokefree policy was still in place, Governor Murphy said advocates for smokefree casinos make “a very compelling case” for making the temporary smokefree policy permanent.
S1878/A4541 “eliminates smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities.” Among the bill’s sponsors are Senators Shirley Turner and Joseph Vitale, who originally introduced S1878, as well as Senators Patrick Diegnan, Loretta Weinberg and Teresa Ruiz. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who originally introduced A4541, has been joined by Asemblywomen Shanique Speight and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson.
In July, the Star-Ledger editorial board published an editorial calling for New Jersey’s elected officials to finally close the casino loophole that forces gaming employees and guests to breathe secondhand smoke in Atlantic City. Gaming executives “have yet to explain how profits at Atlantic City casinos were 11% higher in the first quarter of 2021 than in the first quarter of 2019. Repeat: When smoking was banned, profits rose…It’s time to get a bill to [Gov. Murphy’s] desk, and it must be a priority in the next session. Casino workers cannot hold their breath forever.” The South Jersey Times editorial board also wrote that the “time is right for [a] full N.J. casino smoking ban.”
Further, casino workers are speaking out. “In my 20 years as a dealer, I’ve seen too many of my coworkers develop serious health issues directly related to secondhand smoke,” said Borgata dealer Nicole Vitola. “I was pregnant with my son, and I was in, I had to be in a high roller room with six people smoking cigars and I had to just stand there and deal, and I did.”
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/.