Atlantic City casino workers took to the streets today to make their voices loud and clear in their opposition to allowing indoor smoking to continue on the nine gaming floors in town.
New Jersey’s 2006 Smoke-Free Act prohibited tobacco smoking inside most public places and businesses. But the law afforded an exception for Atlantic City casinos by allowing them to designate up to 25 percent of their gaming spaces for smoking.
Many casino workers argue it’s long overdue to end the loophole. An organization called CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects) held a protest and press conference today. It called on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to demand the state legislature send him a bill that fully bans all indoor smoking outside of private residences.
I’m here to appeal to the leaders of this state to ask for humane treatment while we greet, service, and cater to the millions of visitors that feed New Jersey’s economy every year,” declared Lamont White, an Atlantic City dealer since 1995. “Show empathy for the thousands of casinos workers at risk for cancer everyday by inhaling secondhand smoke.”
The CEASE march occurred on the second and final day of the East Coast Gaming Congress, which was held at Harrah’s Atlantic City in the Marina District.
Murphy Needs Law
Gov. Murphy was in Atlantic City today to deliver the keynote address of the 24th East Coast Gaming Congress. Murphy recently expressed his support for eliminating casino smoking.
The governor is up for reelection next month and expected to easily win a second term. He said last month that he would sign legislation that comes his way that ends casino smoking in Atlantic City. But he stressed that he must rely on the state legislature to act, as he cannot simply order tobacco smoke to end on casino floors.
Regardless, CEASE members took issue with Murphy. They blamed him for allowing the temporary ban on casino smoking implemented amid COVID-19 to extinguish in July. The governor’s emergency health order that prevented casino smoking expired effective July 4, 2021.
In July, we were reminded just how insignificant our lives are, because Governor Murphy allowed the smoking ban to expire,” opined Nicole Vitola, a casino employee who is handling CEASE’s marketing communications, told Casino.org. “No longer will I stand by and watch my friends and coworkers fall ill because of our working conditions.”
Anti-smoking advocates have hope in the Trenton capital by way of Senate Bill 1878. But the legislation, first introduced in February of 2020, hasn’t made much traction.
One holdup is the Casino Association of New Jersey, which argues a casino-wide smoking ban would hurt business. And with the casinos still recovering from COVID-19, the lobbying group says now is not the time to ban indoor smoking.
The workers counter that their health should outweigh the importance of a casino’s bottom line. “Give casino employees the same protections as every other New Jersey citizen,” declared Robin Vitulle, a 36-year Atlantic City casino worker.
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