TRENTON – The Senate today approved a bill, sponsored by Senator John H. Adler, to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and in all indoor places except casino gaming floors.
“This is the most important public act this Legislature may ever take,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “This bill will save thousands of lives.”
The measure, S-1926, would impose fines ranging from a first offense penalty of $250 to up to $1,000 per offense for repeat offenders who ignore the smoking ban – either as building managers or as smokers. It passed 29-7 and now goes to the Assembly.
“More than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking every year,” said Senator Adler. “That’s more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.”
“What’s also striking is that more than 50,000 non-smokers die each year from environmental smoke, including up to 1,800 from New Jersey,” Senator Adler said. “This legislation is long overdue.”
Senator Adler said he was especially concerned about the health risks posed by environmental smoke on children and, in the past, sponsored the law which banned smoking in child care centers.
“We owe it to our children to keep smoke out of their lungs,” he said. “Thousands of parents will no longer have to rush their kids to the emergency room following asthma attacks caused by other people’s smoke.”
New Jersey would join several other states which have banned indoor smoking statewide, including Connecticut, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Kentucky and California.
Senator Adler said fears expressed – as recently as yesterday – by owners of bars and restaurants that the ban would devastate their businesses have not been realized in other venues with smoking bans.
“In New York City, tax receipts have shown double digit increases (up 12 percent) since the City enacted its Smoke Free Indoor Air Law in March of 2003,” Senator Adler said. “Governor Minner of Delaware also tells us that her State’s restaurant and bar businesses have increased since a Statewide smoking ban was adopted three years ago.”
Senator Adler said his one regret about the bill is that it includes an exemption for smoking on casino floors.
“I was forced to accept the exemption for casinos because of political realities and economic uncertainties,” he said. “This bill would have no chance at all without the exemption so I thought it was better to do good for a lot of people than to do nothing.”
He said he sympathized with the health concerns of casino workers and hoped to improve air quality for casino workers and customers as well.
“When it comes to improving healthy environments for non-smokers, especially for children, I’ll take huge change over no change every time,” he said.