Sixteen years ago tomorrow Atlantic City casinos were given an exemption from New Jersey’s clean indoor air law. But tomorrow, gaming workers will rally to urge state lawmakers to close the loophole.
Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) will meet tomorrow, April 12, at McClinton Waterfront Park to campaign in support of two identical bills that seek to extinguish indoor casino smoking in Atlantic City. Assembly Bill 2151 and Senate Bill 264 would eliminate the gaming industry’s indemnity from the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006.
Along with casino employees, the CEASE rally will be attended by state Sen. Vince Polistina and Assembly members Don Guardian and Claire Swift. All three are Republicans representing Atlantic County.
Casinos are the only workplaces in New Jersey where the state allows indoor smoking, forcing us to choose between our health and a paycheck,” a CEASE statement supplied to Casino.org read.
The CEASE assertion isn’t entirely accurate, as the 2006 Smoke-Free Air Act, in addition to casinos, provides exemptions for businesses where tobacco sales account for at least 51% of the business’ revenue. Exemptions were also included for cigar bars and lounges, simulcast facilities, and hotels and motels to designate certain rooms for smoking. A hotel/motel is limited to permitting smoking in up to 20% of its guestrooms.
Gaming Industry Maintains Opposition
None of the nine casinos in Atlantic City have expressed public support for making the gaming floors entirely smoke-free. The Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) continues to argue that eliminating indoor smoking will also eliminate jobs.
A study commissioned by the CANJ and conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group concluded that a ban on indoor tobacco would reduce gross gaming revenue by nearly 11 percent in the first 12 months following such a regulatory enactment. The review forecasted that as many as 2,500 jobs would additionally be lost.
The anti-smoking crowd said the study was flawed. But even if those negative industry projections were realized, worker health should still outweigh in importance, those advocates argue.
No employer should be allowed to knowingly subject their workers to a carcinogen,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). Wimberly is one of the latest Assembly members to co-sponsor A2151.
A2151 is now sponsored by 29 Assembly members, while 15 state Senators have lent their names to S264. Murphy has also expressed his support for ending casino smoking.
The CANJ Spectrum Gaming study contended that 21% of Atlantic City casino gamblers are smokers. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 12.5% of US adults aged 18 or older consume tobacco products regularly.
Smoking prevalence continues to decline. The CDC says the smoking rate was nearly 21% as recently as 2005.
Smoking rates decrease as household income increases. While about 20% of individuals residing in households that have a total income of less than $35,000 a year smoke, just 6% do in households with incomes of $100,000 or greater.
The CDC explains that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Tobacco use causes more than seven million deaths per year worldwide. And on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
Secondhand smoke is also dangerous. The CDC says of the nearly 500,000 annual deaths in the US that cigarettes are deemed responsible for, 41,000 deaths are due to secondhand smoke exposure.
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