By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) – Top New Jersey political leaders are in no rush to pass – or even consider – a bill that would permanently ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos.
On the day that smoking opponents push nationally to get people to quit the habit, New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney said there had been no discussion about whether to move forward with a bill pending in the state legislature to ban smoking in the nine neighborhoods of Atlantic City. casino.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, who was re-elected earlier this month, said he would sign the measure if lawmakers approved it.
But Sweeney, the state’s second-most powerful politician, who was defeated in a re-election bid in a shocking upheaval, showed no urgency on Thursday to consider him.
It was the same day that smoking enemies held another press conference to demand passage of the bill during the current session of the Legislative Assembly, which ends Jan. 11 before the newly elected members do not take an oath.
“We haven’t even started talking about it, really, in a full dialogue,” Sweeney said before an appearance at a groundbreaking ceremony for a supermarket in Atlantic City. “The governor, myself, and the president (of the assembly) need to get together and decide which bills we’re going to push forward.
“We’re not committing to…” he said, his voice fading before adding, “I don’t know what the lame duck will look like. The Legislative Assembly and the Governor must all agree. So we’ll see. “
This was not what tobacco haters and several casino workers wanted to hear on Great American Smokeout Day, when people across the country are urged to try and quit smoking.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a poll it commissioned that showed New Jersey residents support a casino smoking ban by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
“We are happy that New Jersey voters agree that we shouldn’t have to choose between our health and a paycheck,” said Robin Vitulle, dealer supervisor in Atlantic City for over 36 years. “From our experiences, our customers have no problem going out to smoke because they have to go out everywhere else. Then they go inside and continue to play. We can no longer expect clean air in our workplace and urge lawmakers to finally act to close the casino loophole. “
New Jersey law prohibiting smoking in most indoor locations specifically exempts casinos.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck last year, Murphy banned smoking as a measure to prevent transmission of the virus when casinos reopened in July after a 3.5-month shutdown.
This ban expired in April of this year, and since then enemies smokers have been trying to reinstate it and make it permanent.
“At present, our policy of allowing smoking in casinos, but prohibiting smoking outside the doors of casinos on the boardwalks and beaches of Atlantic City, is not only inconsistent, it is reckless and unfair to casino workers, ”said Senator Shirley Turner, of central Jersey. Democrat. “Second-hand smoke shouldn’t be an occupational hazard these days. “
The situation is now what it was before the pandemic: casino customers cannot smoke on more than 20% of the casino floor, signs indicate areas where smoking is allowed and casinos have invested heavily in air filtration systems.
Earlier this year, the Casino Association of New Jersey, the trade group representing Atlantic City casinos, said a permanent ban would do great harm to the industry.
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