TRENTON – Three leading Senate Democrats – John H. Adler, Shirley K. Turner and Joseph F. Vitale – will lead an effort to ban smoking in casinos where it is allowed under the new Smoke-Free Air Act which doesn’t take effect until April 15.
“We’ve accomplished a significant smoking ban across most of New Jersey,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill. “Now, let’s finish the job.”
Senator Turner said it was important to send a message that powerful forces like casino owners should adhere to the same smoke-free restrictions facing local Mom-and-Pop restaurants and taverns.
“It’s a horrible message to say it’s okay for casino moguls to poison the lungs of their workers with second-hand smoke because they have the political clout to ‘buy’ a deadly exemption,” said Senator Turner, D-Lawrence.
Senator Vitale, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said his committee would schedule a hearing soon on the new bill, S-1089, to abolish the casino exemption under the Smoke-Free Air Act.
“We should clear the smoke out of the casinos so there’s no blemish in Atlantic City on an otherwise good, new law,” Senator Vitale said. “The new bill will be a priority.”
Supporters of the new smoke-free law which bans smoking in bars, restaurants and other buildings said it was better to get the new law enacted rather than delay it indefinitely because of political obstacles caused by powerful casino interests.
“Clearly, there’s new momentum to remove the damaging health effects of smoking from all workplaces,” said Senator Adler, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and long-time, clean-air advocate.
Senator Turner, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the exemption for casinos was a bad example for young people.
“It’s hard to imagine a worse message to send to young people who are just getting focused on politics – that the powerful can get favors and exemptions unavailable to regular people,” Senator Turner said.
Senator Vitale said the health of casino workers and casino patrons is just as important as the health of all people who live or visit New Jersey.
“It’s a faulty argument that people will flee the casinos if they’re made smoke free,” Senator Vitale said. “The health benefits of removing the exemption will be enormous.”