Poll shows overwhelming support for smoking ban at NJ casinos
Elaine Rose likes to gamble, but she's getting tired of "reeking of tobacco" when she comes home from playing in the non-smoking areas of Atlantic City casinos.
Sometimes, the Atlantic County resident, whose mother passed away from lung cancer, will travel 90 minutes to Delaware so she can breathe smoke-free air while placing her bets.
"Allowing smoking in casinos is letting this small minority impose their stinky and dangerous habit on the overwhelming majority, and it's time to stop it," Rose said.
Rose represents a strong majority of residents who support a permanent ban on smoking indoors at New Jersey casinos, and an even stronger majority who would prefer to visit a smoke-free casino rather than one that allows smoking, according to survey results released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
In the survey of 813 registered New Jersey voters, conducted in October 2021 by TargetSmart, 44% of respondents said they're strongly in favor of a permanent prohibition on smoking indoors in New Jersey casinos, and 16% said they'd somewhat support the move. Twenty-nine percent said they're somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea.
More support than opposition for a ban was registered among Democrats and Republicans, men and women, young and old respondents, white residents and people of color.
In the poll, 70% of New Jersey voters said they'd prefer to visit a smoke-free casino, and 15% said they'd prefer to visit a casino that allows smoking.
Casinos are exempt from New Jersey's Smoke-Free Air Act, which went into effect in 2006. Indoor smoking at Atlantic City casinos was temporarily banned when they reopened in 2020 following a months-long shutdown caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
"From our experiences, our customers have no problem stepping outside to smoke because they must do so everywhere else," said Robin Vitulle, a dealer supervisor in Atlantic City. "We cannot wait any longer for clear air in our workplace and we urge the Legislature to finally act to close the casino loophole."
Legislation introduced in 2020 in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate to remove the smoking ban exemption has not seen any action. Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated that he'd look favorably on such a measure.
"Excluding casinos from the ban is not a punishment for casinos or smokers, but a way to provide casino workers the same protection from toxic cigarette smoke that all other indoor workers enjoy in this state," said Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, a sponsor of the legislation.
When contacted by New Jersey 101.5 for previous reports on this topic, the Casino Association of New Jersey said it believes that a smoking ban would have an adverse effect on Atlantic City casinos, including a decline in the number of customers. The association noted that casinos' air filtration systems were reviewed because of the pandemic, and they were found to be effective in keeping the air quality fresh and clean.