TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, a driving force behind the law creating the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act,” which banned smoking in restaurants and bars in the Garden State, issued the following statement regarding reports that an Atlantic City Council ordinance extending the ban on smoking to casinos may be watered down before a vote tomorrow evening.
“Tomorrow night, the Atlantic City Council has the opportunity to close a loophole in our State law banning smoking in indoor workplaces which adversely affects the health and well-being of the thousands of casino employees in the Garden State.
“I only hope that the Council members are able to stave off special interests who are only interested in gutting a measure extending the smoking ban to the casino floor.
“When we passed a measure banning smoking in nearly all New Jersey restaurants and bars two years ago, a comprehensive ban fell victim to politics, with casinos clamoring that a smoking ban would put them at a disadvantage to other gambling facilities in the country.
“At the time, we accepted the less stringent ban as a product of the politically possible – with the intention to revisit a casino smoking ban once we could point to empirical data that showed no negative financial impact on bars and restaurants.
“Two years later, the sky hasn’t fallen, the restaurant industry hasn’t declared bankruptcy, and we’re close to having the ammo needed to clear the air in Atlantic City’s casinos.
“However, a compromise, which would allow smoking on 25 percent of the casino gaming floor, threatens to take away momentum from a complete smoking ban.
“The compromise would still put 25 percent of casino employees’ health in jeopardy, forcing them to work in poorly-ventilated rooms and live with the health effects of second-hand smoke.
“The compromise would still put 25 percent of casino patrons in harm’s way, allowing them to indulge in a deadly habit that will ultimately lead to cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and death.
“This ‘compromise’ is nothing but a delay tactic from a casino industry which has read the writing on the walls. I urge the Atlantic City council members to stick by their guns, and support a full ban on smoking in casinos, or to hold off entirely, so as not to damage efforts to ban smoking on the gaming floors.
“We made a mistake last time, allowing politics to dictate the health conditions of casino employees. That’s a mistake we cannot afford to make a second time.”