Key Senate Democrats Seek Total Casino Smoking Ban

TRENTON – Key Senate Democrats are moving forward to impose a total smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos.

Senator Joseph F. Vitale, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, today said the bill he is co-prime sponsoring to impose the smoking ban will be posted for consideration by the panel on Monday (Feb. 26th).

“It’s time to save the lives of the thousands of casino workers who are at risk because of second-hand smoke,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex.

The proposal, S-1089, would amend the Smoke-Free Air Act, sponsored by Senator John H. Adler, which last year imposed a smoking ban in bars, restaurants and most other public places, but exempted casinos.

“The facts are in on second-hand smoke and they don’t bode well for casino workers,” said Senator Vitale. “We need to show them we value their lives as much as the lives of all the other people who now enjoy smoke-free workplaces.”

“I think casino workers deserve to breathe clear air without the health risks associated with second-hand smoke,” said Senator Adler, who also is a prime sponsor of S-1089. “These workers should not have to face a choice between health and unemployment.”

The bill, also co-prime sponsored by Sen. Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, would add casinos and simulcasting facilities to the structures included under the Smoke-Free Air Act.

“The damage done by second-hand smoke is becoming so evident that it would be almost criminal not to ban smoking completely in casinos,” Senator Turner said.

A recent ordinance approved by the City Council in Atlantic City would allow casinos to provide for smoking in 25 percent of their gaming floor space provided that separation walls be constructed to keep smoke away from the smoke-free areas and that strong ventilation systems be installed.

Casino operators contend that fierce competition for gaming patrons from neighboring states is reason enough to allow casino patrons to light up wherever they want.

That argument, however. does not sit well with Senator Vitale, who also sits on the Senate Committee on Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation.

“Surely, the powerful and creative minds who built the colossal monuments of the gambling industry in Atlantic City can conjure up ways to keep luring people to casinos without killing the help,” Senator Vitale said.

Senator Adler’s Smoke-Free Air Act cleared the air in previously exempt bars, restaurants and other public places, but the thousands of smoke-exposed casino workers claimed it treated them as inferiors under the law.

Recent studies on the negative impact of second-hand smoke has bolstered the position of clean-air advocates that permitting smoking anywhere in the workplace is tantamount to exposing workers to often-fatal respiratory ailments and premature deaths.

Penalties under the Smoke Free Air Law call for fines of up to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and up to $1,000 for a third and subsequent offenses.

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