Support Grows for Bill to Make Atlantic City Casinos Smokefree As More Lawmakers Sign On
Bill Gains 6 New Co-Sponsors as Gov. Murphy Acknowledges That Advocates Make “A Compelling Case”
May 24, 2021
Atlantic City, NJ — The push to make Atlantic City casinos smokefree is gaining fresh legislative support as six new state lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation to close the casino loophole in state law. The new support for S1878/A4541 comes as the temporary smokefree casino policy in Atlantic City could soon expire. Closing the loophole would protect guests and workers alike from the well-established dangers of even brief exposure to secondhand smoke.
Senators Shirley Turner and Joseph Vitale, who originally introduced S1878, have been joined by Senators Chris Brown, 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.
“I am pleased to have the support of my colleagues in extending the smoking ban to casinos and correcting this omission that increases health risks to casino workers and patrons,” said Senator Shirley Turner. “When the Legislature passed the Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006, it was a step toward ensuring that all New Jerseyans have access to safe, healthy, smoke-free workplaces. We know that exposure to secondhand smoke presents serious health risks and it is time that casino workers and non-smoking patrons have the same protection from this danger as other indoor workers and customers enjoy in the state.”
“As we emerge into a ‘new normal’ in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, our priorities must be to promote policies in the interest of public health, that includes restricting smoking in casinos,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “Over the course of the last year, casinos have successfully adjusted to operations with smoking bans, now is the time to make these changes permanent and ensure a healthier New Jersey moving forward.”
Smokefree casino advocates sent a letter to Gov. Murphy earlier this month outlining the case for remaining smokefree.
“Creating a smoke-free environment is not only good for health, it’s good for business,” said Senator Patrick Diegnan. “If there is one thing we learned when we imposed smoke-free regulations, it’s that restaurants, movie theaters and other related industries experience a boom in business because people were in a healthy, comfortable environment. That should be our goal in Atlantic City.”
Gov. Murphy has acknowledged the strong argument in favor of ensuring a smokefree workplace and entertainment environment.
“This is a very important and timely piece of legislation,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. “Casinos are public spaces, much like restaurants, where various populations often visit, engage, and walk through for numerous reasons and occasions. In addition, and most importantly, we must consider the health, safety, and comfort of casino workers. Individuals who do not smoke or may be bothered by contact shouldn’t be subjected to such.”
“Approximately 99.5% of people who work in the State of New Jersey are protected from secondhand smoke in their workplace. It’s time to protect 100% of workers,” said Bob Zlotnick, PhD, co-founder of Smoke Free AC. “Further, smoking and vaping may spread the virus. COVID-19 has changed everything about how we think about public spaces, and asking people to smoke outside is a common sense policy that should be made permanent.”
WATCH: Governor Murphy on Smokefree Casino Policy, 5/3/2021:
“I’ve got no opinion yet on the–we haven’t considered the anti-smoking piece. I’ve seen the advocates make, I think, a very compelling case. I was in and around casinos a couple times this weekend and by the way, it looked like everyone was doing the right thing. It’s really impressive when you see–talk about partitions at every single gaming table, they exist. People wearing face coverings, pretty much to the person. Really impressive. But no news on that, Michael, yet.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smokefree. At least 160 sovereign Tribal gaming venues have implemented 100% smokefree policies during COVID-19, 23 states require commercial casinos to be smokefree indoors, and nearly 1,100 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors. Opinion research routinely, and increasingly, shows the vast majority of guests prefer smokefree indoor casinos. That’s not surprising considering that among young adults, 90 percent are nonsmokers.
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/.