5 More New Jersey Legislators Co-Sponsor Bipartisan Bill to Close Casino Smoking Loophole

Legislation Now Has 33 Co-Sponsors in the Assembly, Including ⅔ of Health Committee Members

May 26, 2022

Contact: press@no-smoke.org

Atlantic City, NJ — Five more members of the New Jersey General Assembly are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to eliminate the casino smoking loophole and protect the health of casino workers. With the additional co-sponsors announced today, 33 members of the Assembly are now co-sponsoring A2151. The new co-sponsors are:

  • Assemblymember Mila Jasey (D)
  • Assemblymember Yvonne Lopez (D)
  • Assemblymember Annette Quijano (D)
  • Assemblymember John McKeon (D)
  • Assemblymember Gregory McGuckin (R)

“I am cosponsoring A2151 because frontline casino workers should not be forced to spend their shifts inhaling secondhand smoke,” said Assemblymember Mila Jasey. “Not only is ending smoking inside casinos a matter of public health, but casinos in competing markets have adopted smokefree policies without negative impacts on their business. This is a commonsense solution to a long-overdue problem and I am proud to stand with casino workers in support of this legislation.”

“We welcome news that almost half of the General Assembly has signed on to cosponsor legislation to finally protect the health of casino workers and get rid of smoking inside casinos,” said Pete Naccarelli, co-leader of Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE), which has organized thousands of AC casino workers since smoking returned in July 2021. “It is unacceptable that we are still forced to choose between our health and our paycheck– enough is enough. This legislation is long overdue and we call on our elected officials to bring these bills before the Health Committees where it is clear that it will pass.” 

The primary sponsors of A2151 are Assemblyman William Moen (D), Health Committee Chair Herb Conaway (D), and Deputy Speaker Paul Moriarty (D). The bill enjoys similarly significant and bipartisan support in the Senate, where the primary sponsors of S264 are Health Committee Chair Joseph Vitale (D) and Senator Shirley Turner (D). The full list of 16 Senate co-sponsors – consisting of 12 Democrats and 4 Republicans – can be viewed here. Governor Phil Murphy has repeatedly said he’d sign the legislation.

“A growing bipartisan coalition in Trenton strongly supports legislation to protect casino workers and make casinos smokefree indoors,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “Legislators know that it is unacceptable to continue the outdated business practice of knowingly subjecting workers to dangerous secondhand smoke. It’s time to take the next step and hold hearings on this legislation in both the Senate and Assembly Health Committees.” 

The union representing Atlantic City casino dealers, UAW, last month announced its strong support for eliminating the casino smoking loophole that threatens the health of their members and other casinos employees due to secondhand smoke exposure. UAW released a letter urging legislators to hold hearings on the bipartisan bills, S264 and A2151. “Our members include dealers who sit inches away from patrons who blow smoke directly into their face for eight hours a day, every single day. It is simply unacceptable knowing what we know about the dangers of secondhand smoke. It is unacceptable knowing that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can be harmful to someone's health. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 can cause cancer. No worker in the state of NJ should be forced to breathe cancer causing chemicals every single day.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152 also came out in support of the bills last month. The union represents thousands of retail, manufacturing and healthcare workers in South Jersey who depend on a strong South Jersey economy. “Our brothers and sisters deserve a smokefree work environment, period. Healthy casino workers will help the casinos succeed and fuel a thriving local economy – which benefits all of us here in New Jersey.”

CNBC aired a piece on this issue last week that highlighted the stakes for casino workers. “[Tammy] Brady is on medical leave, getting treatment for breast cancer. ‘I’m worried about going back to my job in a smoking environment,’ she told CNBC, tears streaming down her face.”

Undercutting a key argument from casinos about why they oppose protecting their employees from the known dangers of secondhand smoke, the Associated Press reported this month that New Jersey casinos generated more revenue in April from in-person gambling than they did before the pandemic in April 2019.  Further, NJ Online Gambling reports that Atlantic City casinos this year posted the highest first-quarter profits since at least 2008. The Associated Press wrote that “Atlantic City's casinos collectively saw their profitability increase in the first quarter of this year compared not only with a year earlier, but also to the pre-pandemic period.” 

Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 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://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.