TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators John Adler, Shirley K. Turner and Joseph F. Vitale which would eliminate the smoking ban exemption for New Jersey casinos and simulcasting facilities was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 35-0.
“Today’s Senate action is a huge win for New Jersey,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “It sends the message that the public interest, and our health, is our most important priority. With this vote, we guarantee smoke-free indoor air, not just for casino patrons, but employees who risk their health just by going to work.”
“When we approved the Smoke-Free Air Act last session, we were told that adding casinos to the smoking ban would hurt the industry,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “However, as we’ve seen the smoking ban in practice in New Jersey restaurants and bars, while it’s taken some adjustment, the ban hasn’t meant the end of the world. We need to eliminate the double standard for casinos, and eliminate the threat of second-hand smoke for workers and casino guests.”
“Local efforts to control smoking in casinos have only shifted the problem from one area of the casino floor to another,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “The surgeon general has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. If we’re serious about putting the health of New Jerseyans first, we simply cannot accept a smoking ban which provides loopholes for casinos.”
The Senators’ bill, S-1089, would amend the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act to remove the exemption for casinos and casino simulcasting facilities from the Statewide smoking ban affecting restaurants, bars and other workplaces in the Garden State. Under the revised indoor smoking ban, the only exceptions to the ban would be:
* Cigar bars or lounges which were in existence prior to the adoption of the Smoke-Free Air Act which meet certain predetermined sales criteria;
* Tobacco retail establishments in which at least 51 percent of business is the sale of tobacco;
* Tobacco businesses where the testing or a cigar or pipe tobacco by burning or smoking is a necessary part of the manufacturing; and
* private homes and residences.
The Senators noted that during negotiations for the Smoke-Free Air Act during the 2004-05 Legislative Session, the decision was made not to include casinos in the ban, due to considerable pressure from the casino lobby that threatened to stall the ban in restaurants and bars.
“We passed the original smoking ban knowing we had important work left to do,” said Senator Adler, the author of the original bill. “Today’s vote fulfills our promise to put public health first.”
“When we voted on the original indoor smoking ban, we struck a victory for restaurant and bar employees who were forced to breathe in toxic second-hand smoke,” said Senator Turner. “It’s a matter of fairness that we extend the same healthy working conditions to casino employees as well.”
“Continued exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer or other illnesses related to smoking,” said Senator Vitale. “While smokers can choose to quit at any time, and I hope many of them make that choice soon for their own good, many subjected to second-hand smoke, including employees, have no choice. We need a complete indoor smoking ban, to protect New Jerseyans from the dangerous health decisions of others.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.