New Jersey casino smoking ban bill has majority of committee members as co-sponsors ahead of hearing

A majority of committee members are now co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill to close New Jersey’s casino smoking loophole. A joint hearing on the proposal will be held on March 9 by the Assembly Health Committee; and the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee. 

As the two committees prepare to hold this joint hearing on the smoke ban legislation in Trenton, a majority of members now sponsor bill A2151: eight of 12 Assembly Health Committee members and four of seven Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee members, reports Insider NJ.

The current bill already has enough support by way of co-sponsors to pass the statute to the Senate. A clone of AB2151 has been introduced in the Senate, and that bill also has adequate support to pass the upper chamber. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he would sign a measure to prohibit indoor casino smoking. He needs the Legislature to send him such a bill, as he cannot singlehandedly adjust the state’s current Smoke-Free Air Act. 

Pete Naccarelli, co-leader of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, stated. “We’re thankful to the members of the committees for supporting this critical legislation that will protect our lives. We casino dealers are the workers most exposed to this poison and cannot even turn our heads because we’re watching over chips on the table.”

We’re looking forward to the hearing next week and moving closer than ever to gaining the same protections that every other worker in New Jersey enjoys,” he added, as reported by Insider NJ

Cynthia Hallet, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, added: “We welcome the support of a majority of members from these two important committees as well as the several other members who recently signed on as cosponsors to the legislation.”

These lawmakers are joining a large, bipartisan coalition of supporters who agree that 17 years is beyond long enough for workers to suffer. It is critical that this legislation receive a vote as soon as possible so that casino workers are no longer forced to choose between their health and their paycheck,” Hallet argued.

Lawmakers who have signed on as cosponsors to the bill in recent weeks include Assemblymembers Joseph Danielsen; Linda Carter, Beth Sawyer; Aura Dunn; Edward Thomson; William Sampson; and Brandon Umba. State Senators Nicholas Sacco and Renee Burgess also recently cosponsored S264.

Assemblymember Joseph Danielsen commented: “I’m glad to join a majority of my colleagues in cosponsoring A2151 to close the casino loophole. No other industry is allowed to subject its workforce to breathing secondhand smoke and casinos should no longer be the exception. It is clear that this bill will pass with overwhelming support and we should hold that vote as soon as possible.”

Last month, Atlantic City casino workers and a coalition of public health advocates testified during a hearing before the New Jersey State Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. 

The casino industry was absent from the hearing and Local 54 bussed in workers from Philadelphia, and reportedly threatened some of their Atlantic City-based members to get on a bus to Trenton or risk losing their job. 

New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act took effect on April 15, 2006, but included an exemption for casinos. Legislation to eliminate the casino smoking loophole has earned more cosponsors than most other bills this legislative session in Trenton. S264 and A2151 are identical bills that eliminate the smoking ban exemption for casinos and simulcasting facilities.

Last week, the CDC Office on Smoking and Health released a new report on secondhand smoke, which examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report evaluated particulate matter, an indicator for secondhand, in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to those that allow smoking. They concluded that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.