During the 2005-2006 lameduck period, Trenton lawmakers passed an indoor smoking ban. California was the only state with an indoor smoking back making New Jersey the 2nd state in the nation to make such a move which frankly felt radical at the time. But we adjusted. And now we know that restaurants did just fine without a smoking section and (most importantly) people smoked less.
But the legislation was flawed, including carveouts that permitted smoking in casinos in Atlantic City, an exception that still persists nearly 17 years later. Back then, those carveouts felt like pragmatism, a comprise to get tough legislation over the line as the lameduck session was winding down. But it wan’t pragmatic to sacrifice the health of casino workers for an entire generation. It was disgraceful, pure and simple.
A bus load of casinos workers descended on Trenton yesterday to remind lawmakers that carveouts permitting casino smoking are still a disgrace.
Pete Naccarelli has been a casino dealer since 1996.
So what’s it like breathing second-hand cigarette smoke at work?
”It’s tough,” Mr. Naccarelli told InsiderNJ. “When we’re at work and we see someone come up with a cigarette or a cigar, the anxiety and tension just waiting, hoping, praying that they won’t light up. When we’re on the table dealing, we’re within a foot from the player and when they blow smoke towards us, we not allowed to turn around we’re just stuck there. We have millions of dollars in front of us at any given time and we just have to suck in the smoke and it’s really horrible.”
Legislation to end NJ’s casino smoking loophole is wildly popular in both houses, enjoying a level of bipartisan support that’s rare in Trenton these days.
”We have all the support we need, enough votes in the General Assembly and over 50% co-sponsorship in the Senate,” Mr. Naccarelli added. “We have Governor Murphy who said he’d sign the bill if it gets to his desk. We’re waiting for it to to be put up and we assume the casinos are fighting this which is the holdup now.”
So basically leadership in both houses won’t post the bills because of aggressive lobbying from casinos?
”Correct,” Mr. Naccarelli added. “Once they get posted, they’ll go through with flying colors.”
According to Mr. Naccarelli, the casino lobby wants to preserve a smoke-filled status quo and that’s why Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin won’t post legislation to end casino smoking.
”The casino arguments against the smoking ban are old and tired,” Mr. Naccarelli told InsiderNJ. “A lot of people that run the casinos have been doing it for 40 years. This isn’t the 1980s anymore. Those are the arguments that the Casino Lobby brings to the powers that be. That’s what our job right now is: getting those gatekeepers the actual information and not the casino’s version. It’s one of those things where they’re saying casinos can’t live without smoking, that gambling and smoking go together.”
Mr. Naccarelli added that it wasn’t long ago that smoking was permitted in some pretty unlikely places..
“It was the same argument that restaurants and smoking go together and before that, airplanes and even hospitals and smoking go together,” Mr. Naccarelli added.
In conclusion, back in 2006, Trenton lawmakers passed a smoking ban which, larded with loopholes for the mighty, permitted casino patrons to keep on smokin’. If you’re curious about the durability of an unfair loophole, consider NJ casinos which smell like an ashtray to this day despite tons of evidence that smoking indoors is bad for everyone.
There’s also a growing consensus that indoor cigarette smoking is bad for business, a lesson seemingly lost on casino lobbyists who remain committed to customers who smoke over those who don’t.
New reports have come out from reputable sources that say casinos that have gone nonsmoking since the pandemic have not lost revenue and have even gained profits.
For example: Atlantic City casinos went smoke-free during the COVID pandemic from September 4, 2020 until July 4, 2021 during which casino profits rose 11%.
Jay Lassiter is an award-wining writers and podcaster who Tweets @Jay_Lass. He doesn’t smoke cigarettes.