Casino Workers Against the Effects of Smoking (CEASE), who have advocated for legislation that will protect casino workers from the harms of second-hand smoke, are now enjoying a visit by the US Vice President to Atlantic City to ask for support for new regulations that will ban smoking in casinos.
Smoking in casinos endangers the health of employees
US Vice President Kamala Harris came to Atlantic City to address the National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and to participate in discussions on abortion and reproductive health rights. CEASE took the opportunity to raise awareness among casino workers of the harms suffered as a result of allowing smoking in casinos. Nicole Vitola, the leader of CEASE, issued a statement expressing her concerns: “No worker should have to choose between a paycheck and their health – or that of their unborn child. It’s time to put an end to indoor smoking. Our lives depend on it.”
Vitola drew attention to the fact that nearly half of the people working in Atlantic City casinos are people of color. They are exposed to second-hand smoke like no other group and are at a disadvantage. Another major reason for concern is that there are also pregnant women among casino employees and smoking inside poses a serious health risk to pregnant women and their babies. As the vice president will discuss reproductive health with New Jersey lawmakers, Vitola asked for her support for legislation banning smoking inside casinos.
Atlantic City casinos exempted from smoking ban
Smoking indoors in public areas has been banned in New Jersey since 2006, however, Atlantic City casinos have successfully won an exemption from this rule. In 2008, this exemption was reversed, resulting in a 20% drop in casino revenue in the first week alone. Due to the raging economic crisis and financial challenges, Atlantic City casinos successfully reversed this decision and were allowed to allow indoor smoking in 25% of their locations.
In April this year, Atlantic City casino workers continued the fight for smoke-free casinos by staging protests in favor of legislation proposing to ban smoking altogether, which, however, is still awaiting approval. passed by the Assembly and the State Senate.
Understandably, the smoke-free legislation has met with resistance from the gambling industry, as stakeholders fear it will seriously damage casino revenue. Casino operators have also pointed out that the smoking ban could lead to job cuts.