Anti-Smoking Group Says Atlantic City Casinos Should Remain Smoke-Free

Posted on: April 29, 2021, 10:28h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2021, 09:44h.

Smoking inside Atlantic City casinos remains prohibited on New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) orders. Some want to keep the gaming floors that way. 

Atlantic City casino smoking ban
Smokers stand outside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on the Atlantic City Boardwalk last September. Anti-smoking advocates want the current indoor casino smoking ban to become permanent. (Image: Press of Atlantic City)

Murphy’s Executive Order on the nine Atlantic City gaming properties temporarily bans indoor casino smoking and vaping. Guests must go outside and visit designated areas to light up. 

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) is seizing the opportunity presented by COVID-19 to permanently extinguish indoor smoking in Atlantic City. Casinos in town were provided an exemption from the state’s 2006 law that banned smoking inside public establishments, including restaurants and bars.

During a Zoom event yesterday hosted by ANR, anti-smoking advocates called on casinos in Atlantic City and across the country to outlaw smoking and vaping while gambling indoors.

Casinos cannot be both a modern mainstream industry and still permit smoking indoors,”  Cynthia Hallett, ANR president and chief executive, said. “Most young people don’t smoke and they’re very health conscious.”

New Jersey Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) is drafting legislation that would end casinos’ caveat that excludes the gaming floors from the 2006 state indoor smoking ban. She plans to soon introduce such legislation. 

No Smoking Movement Growing

The ANR says it’s time for New Jersey and Atlantic City to join the many other states that do not allow commercial casinos to permit guests to smoke inside. 

Nine states do not allow any indoor casino smoking. They are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and South Dakota. Six others — Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island — have at least partial areas of their casino floors where smoking is prohibited.

Since the onset of the pandemic, states have ordered the suspension of indoor smoking at casinos. With COVID-19 being a respiratory virus, health officials across the nation have voiced concerns that cigarette smoke and other vapors might more easily spread the coronavirus. 

COVID-19 is also thought to present more serious complications for smokers than non-smokers. 

“More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke-free. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues have implemented 100 percent smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 23 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and nearly 1,100 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors,” a statement from ANR to explained.

“Opinion research routinely and increasingly shows the vast majority of guests prefer smoke-free indoor casinos. That’s not surprising considering that among young adults, 90 percent are nonsmokers,” the release added.

Industry Opposition

The Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) says the ANR’s mission to forever ban indoor casino smoking would greatly damage its industry. CANJ lobbies on behalf of the nine casinos in the Trenton capital. 

The trade organization says a complete smoking ban would have “long-term financial implications” for Atlantic City’s casinos. It would put the gaming resorts at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby casinos, they claim. 

In neighboring Pennsylvania, casinos are permitted to designate up to 50 percent of their floor space to smoking. Similar to one in New Jersey, Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act, passed in 2008, makes smoking illegal inside restaurants, office buildings, schools, sports arenas, theaters, most bars, and various other public businesses. But the law provided a partial carve out for casinos.