NJ Casino Worker Lawsuit Adds Urgency for Legislators to Act Now to Close Casino Smoking Loophole

Lawmakers Can Make the Lawsuit a Moot Point By Passing S1493/A2143

April 5, 2024
Contact: press@no-smoke.org

Trenton, NJCynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, released the following statement after Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents casino dealers in Atlantic City, filed a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey over the loophole in the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act that leaves casino workers exposed to secondhand smoke at their jobs: 

"This lawsuit adds to the urgency for New Jersey legislators to act to finally pass the bills that close the casino smoking loophole in state law and protect every New Jerseyan from the known, harmful effects of secondhand smoke. New Jersey’s casino workers deserve the same protections as every other worker in the state. Legislators can make the lawsuit a moot point if they simply pass the legislation that’s before them —S1493 and A2143— to close the casino smoking loophole.”

Contrary to industry assertions about the potential economic impact, a recent poll found that 74% of New Jerseyans and Philadelphians would be more likely to visit Atlantic City casinos if they were to operate 100% smokefree indoors. Further, the American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller has said that casinos that have gone smokefree have done so “without detrimental effect” and that the decision “hasn’t led to a decrease in business.” 

Legislation to close the casino smoking loophole has broad support from a diverse coalition of organizations including the National Council on Problem Gambling, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The United Auto Workers (UAW), the only labor union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, strongly supports the legislation and has repeatedly called on New Jersey lawmakers to protect the health of their members. UAW represents thousands of workers in Atlantic City casinos, including dealers at Caesars, Bally’s, and Tropicana, who are the most affected workers in a casino, as their job requires them to spend their entire shift an arm’s length from smokers.

UAW has also rejected the Philip Morris Smoking Rooms proposed by some in the industry. 

“The UAW will not compromise on the health of any worker. We reject any amendment in the legislation that would allow workers to ‘volunteer’ to work in smoking rooms. No one should have to risk their health for a paycheck,” wrote UAW President Shawn Fain in a recent letter to lawmakers.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) 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 https://nonsmokersrights.org and https://smokefreecasinos.org.