Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Reject Philip Morris Smoking Rooms
November 30, 2023
Trenton, NJ—Following the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee hearing on legislation to close the casino smoking loophole, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), issued the following statement:
“Casinos and their lobbyists waited until the last minute to engage in this discussion, and legislators clearly need more time to understand the repercussions of dangerous amendments they are unveiling at the 11th hour that would hurt the most vulnerable casino workers. We are confident that as these consequences are made clear in the coming days, especially of Philip Morris smoking rooms, legislators will vote to finally close the casino smoking loophole and protect every worker’s health. The scare tactics from casinos are tired and no longer apply in a post-COVID world. There is no compromising on workers’ health and we are confident legislators will get the job done during lame-duck.”
An overwhelming 70 percent of the New Jersey legislature has cosponsored S264 and A2151, legislation to close the casino smoking loophole and protect the health of casino workers. The bills have earned 83 cosponsors in total, 26 in the Senate and 57 in the Assembly.
During a hearing in March held by the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee, members of CEASE testified before lawmakers to share their experience working in smoke for hours at a time and dealing with the extreme health consequences.
In February, casino workers and other supporters including the United Auto Workers, and representatives from several public health organizations testified before the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee.
The legislation also has broad support from a range of organizations including the National Council on Problem Gambling, UFCW Local 152, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he will sign the legislation when it reaches his desk, saying “At the end of the day, we will still get good business. Atlantic City is an American gem. We’ve got the ocean and the other competitors don’t. And this is the right thing for our respective health.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke free, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues implemented 100% smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found adult cigarette smoking rates in the U.S. dropped to an all-time low, with only 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers. Another report from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report, entitled “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” evaluated particulate matter – an indicator for secondhand smoke – in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to casinos that allow smoking. They affirmed that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.
Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” reads their report. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.”
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), sister organization to the ANR Foundation, is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for over 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit nonsmokersrights.org and smokefreecasinos.org.
Keep up to date on all our smokefree work at @Smokefree
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