Atlantic City Casino Smoking Cessation Calls Renewed

Posted on: January 10, 2024, 02:40h. 

Last updated on: January 9, 2024, 10:52h.

Atlantic City casino workers demanding a clean indoor air workplace are urging state lawmakers in Trenton to move quickly this legislative session. They hope to to end the loophole that allows gamblers to smoke cigarettes and puff on cigars.

Atlantic City casino smoking New Jersey
A slot player smokes a cigarette at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City on Nov. 29, 2023. Casino smoking is expected to light up a lively conversation in the New Jersey capital this year. (Image: AP)

The New Jersey Legislature convened for the 2024 session on Tuesday. The lawmaking schedule runs through the end of the year.

A pivotal issue facing the Atlantic City gaming industry is the state’s expected consideration of passing an amendment that would close the indoor casino smoking loophole. The state’s 2006 Smoke-free Air Act included an exception for licensed casinos that allows the venues to designate up to 25% of their gaming floor space for indoor smoking.

CEASE, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, says it’s long overdue that casino workers are afforded a safe place to work free of secondhand smoke.

We cannot wait any longer,” CEASE said in a statement to “We are stuck breathing secondhand smoke for hours at work every day. It’s unacceptable.”

CEASE claims many of its members have faced difficult health diagnoses, including lung cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma. Many of those workers blame their smoke-filled, toxic workplaces for the diseases.

Urgent Call to Action

CEASE is a grassroots organization that has since expanded to other states where casino smoking remains, including Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Virginia. CEASE recently formed a political action committee to support lawmakers supportive of their cause.

The PAC establishment followed last month’s disappointing outcome in the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee. That inaction shocked CEASE by failing to advance legislation that would close the casino smoking carveout. Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), the chair of the health committee who also authored Senate Bill 264 to remedy the casinos with clean indoor air, said several Republicans rescinded their support for the statute.

Those Republicans, Vitale said, were won over by the casino lobby, which argued that enclosed smoking rooms where only slot machines would operate could resolve the matter without legislation. The casino reps contend a full smoking ban would lead to massive job layoffs, as gamblers who enjoy tobacco would take their business to Philadelphia.

Some of those Republicans said they didn’t get into politics to take people’s livelihoods away. Some Democrats say continuing to allow indoor smoking might be taking their lives away.

Bill Reintroduced

As New Jersey lawmakers get to business in the new year, Vitale reintroduced his S264. The legislation for the 2024 session is numbered S1493.

Unlike last year’s statute, the legislation no longer has the adequate support needed by way of cosponsors to pass the Senate, should it reach a floor vote. S1493 currently has the support of 18 state Senators in the 40-member chamber.

The reduction in legislative support has CEASE angered and motivated for change.

We reject false, so-called compromises that continue to jeopardize our health. Philip Morris smoking rooms are a joke, as is the idea of ‘voluntary’ shifts that would fall to our most vulnerable colleagues,” the CEASE statement continued.

“Ventilation experts have made clear no current or forthcoming filtration systems can keep us safe from secondhand smoke — our lungs are the ventilation systems. Protecting our health and protecting the economic well-being of Atlantic City casinos go hand-in-hand — a healthy, happy workforce will allow the casinos to thrive,” the statement read.

CEASE claims about three in four gamblers say they’d be more likely to visit Atlantic City casinos if they were free of smoke.