Atlantic City, NJ—In response to news that the New Jersey Senate will vote on legislation to close the casino smoking loophole during the upcoming lame-duck legislative session, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, issued the following statement: “We’re thrilled that New Jersey lawmakers will hold a much-anticipated vote to end indoor smoking in casinos and protect the lives of thousands of Atlantic City casino workers. We’re especially encouraged that the bill appears likely to receive a vote as currently drafted, without amendments that would weaken it and continue to put workers’ health in jeopardy. “For far too long, frontline workers have been forced to deal with secondhand smoke in their workplace and the devastating health consequences that result. With an overwhelming bipartisan majority of lawmakers cosponsoring this legislation, we are confident that the bills will easily pass. By closing the casino smoking loophole, Atlantic City casinos will join the growing number of casinos and states that are going 100% smokefree indoors and attracting a new generation of guests who prefer a smokefree experience. Most importantly, this legislation is going to improve workplace conditions for workers and even save lives.” BACKGROUND During a hearing in March held by the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee, members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) testified before lawmakers to share their experience working in smoke for hours at a time and dealing with the extreme health consequences. In February, casino workers and other supporters including the United Auto Workers, and representatives from several public health organizations testified before the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee. An overwhelming 70 percent of the New Jersey legislature has cosponsored S264 and A2151, legislation to close the casino smoking loophole and protect the health of casino workers. The bills have earned 83 cosponsors in total, 26 in the Senate and 57 in the Assembly. The legislation also has broad support from a range of organizations including the National Council on Problem Gambling, UFCW Local 152, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk, saying “At the end of the day, we will still get good business. Atlantic City is an American gem. We’ve got the ocean and the other competitors don’t. And this is the right thing for our respective health.” More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke free, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues implemented 100% smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found adult cigarette smoking rates in the U.S. dropped to an all-time low, with only 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers. Another report from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report, entitled “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” evaluated particulate matter – an indicator for secondhand smoke – in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to casinos that allow smoking. They affirmed that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke. Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” reads their report. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.” A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.
October 20, 2023 3:53 PM