ACS CAN commissioned a poll of New Jersey voters in October 2021 asking about a variety of public policy issues, including whether or not voters support legislation that would protect the health of New Jersey casino workers by making New Jersey casinos smoke-free.
The poll was conducted by TargetSmart, a leading national polling firm with expertise in New Jersey politics.
“For far too long New Jersey’s over 22,000 casino workers have been forced to choose everyday between their health and a paycheck,” said Michael Davoli, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Senior Director of Government Relations. “These poll results reinforce that not only are smokefree casinos good for public health and good for business but that New Jersey voters agree that it is time to make all casinos smokefree.”
“In today’s tremendously charged and polarized political climate, voters almost never come together with such unanimity behind any opinion on any topic of debate,” said TargetSmart pollster Ben Lazarus. “But when it comes to the idea of ensuring everyone in New Jersey has the right to breathe smoke-free air, we identify in this poll one of those rare values that unite Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike.”
Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-15) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) have championed legislation the State Legislature that would close the casino loophole and permanently prohibit smoking indoors at all New Jersey casinos.
“As we emerge into a “new normal” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, our priorities must be to promote policies in the interest of public health, that includes prohibiting smoking in casinos,” said bill sponsor Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D- Englewood/ Teaneck). “Over the course of the last year, casinos have successfully adjusted to operations with smoking bans. Now is the time to listen to our residents and make these changes permanent in order to ensure a healthier New Jersey moving forward.”
“Bans on smoking at indoor workplaces, as well as at indoor and outdoor public places, recognize the need to protect the health of our residents from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” said bill sponsor Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “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. Right now, our policy that allows smoking in casinos, but bans smoking outside the casino doors on Atlantic City boardwalks and beaches is not only inconsistent, it is inconsiderate and unfair to casino workers. I am pleased that the overwhelming majority of smokers in our state agree that casino workers deserve protection. In this day and age, secondhand smoke should not be an occupational hazard.”
“We’re glad that New Jersey voters agree that we should not have to choose between our health and a paycheck,” said Robin Vitulle, a dealer supervisor in Atlantic City for more than 36 years. “From our experiences, our customers have no problem stepping outside to smoke because they must do so everywhere else. Then they come back inside and continue to gamble. We cannot wait any longer for clear air in our workplace and we urge the legislature to finally act to close the casino loophole.”
“As a casino patron I am deeply frustrated that I cannot enjoy Atlantic City casinos without coming home with my clothes and hair reeking of tobacco,” said Elaine Rose, a non-smoker and longtime casino patron. “Non-smoking areas are rarely, if ever, enforced, and the Atlantic City Health Department has rarely, if ever, issued citations for lighting up in them. Even when I play exclusively in the non-smoking areas, I often come home with my clothes and hair reeking of tobacco.”
The Smoke Free Air Act protects most of New Jersey’s workforce and applies to almost all workplaces, except casinos. Exposing casino employees to secondhand smoke is a proven health risk. Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 substances, more than 70 of which are known to cause cancer. The U.S Surgeon General has concluded that even separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure of nonsmokers to deadly secondhand smoke.
When Governor Murphy temporarily prohibited smoking inside casinos earlier on in the pandemic casino workers were able to breathe fresh air for the first time while at work.
Meanwhile, New Jersey casinos thrived even as all of them were smokefree. Casino revenue in New Jersey was up 30% over the same time in 2019. Guests were happy to step outside to smoke, since they are accustomed to do so everywhere else, before returning to the casino floor.
“The facts are undeniable,” added Davoli. “Prohibiting smoking inside casinos is both good for the health of workers and at the same time good for business. State lawmakers have the chance this year to pass legislation that will once and for all protect the health of New Jersey casino workers by passing S1878/A4541.”
“Fifteen years ago, New Jersey enacted the Smoke Free Air Law that assured many workplaces were protected from secondhand smoke – but certain classes of workers were left behind,” said Corinne Orlando, New Jersey Director of Government Relations, American Heart Association. “Gaps in smoke-free protections that leave out casinos harm the people most exposed to secondhand smoke, the same people typically most burdened with other health and social inequities. It is time for New Jersey to correct this injustice and provide equality for casino employees by permanently eliminating smoking from casino floors, and this poll shows strong public support for this change.”-
“The status quo of allowing smoking indoors at Atlantic City casinos is not only jeopardizing the health of frontline casino workers -- it’s also putting lawmakers who oppose closing the casino loophole at odds with their constituents,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “It’s time to stop giving casinos a special break and instead prioritize the health of a diverse group of workers who deserve a safe work environment, just like every other New Jersey worker, including the gaming executives who breathe clean air in their offices. It’s past time to do the right thing – which also happens to be good for business.”
“All New Jersey employees deserve an equal opportunity to breathe smoke free air. New Jerseyans should not have to choose between financial security and their health,” said Diane Litterer, CEO and Executive Director of New Jersey Prevention Network. Supporting employee health is always the right decision. Through the Tobacco Free for a Healthy NJ (TFHNJ) program, the Working Well Tobacco Free initiative supports NJ employers & employees by educating them about the dangers of secondhand smoke using TFHNJ’s Tobacco-Free Worksite Policy Toolkit. The toolkit supports employee health through education, policy change and resources to help quit tobacco use. You can find the TFHNJ’s Tobacco-Free Worksite Policy Toolkit and more on Tobaccofreenj.com, ”
About ACS CAN at 20
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) makes cancer a top priority for policymakers at every level of government. ACS CAN empowers volunteers across the country to make their voices heard to influence evidence-based public policy change that saves lives. We believe everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. Since 2001, as the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN has successfully advocated for billions of dollars in cancer research funding, expanded access to quality affordable health care, and made workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. As we mark our 20th anniversary, we’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers and save more lives from cancer. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.
About this poll
TargetSmart designed and administered this blended-mode survey of registered New Jersey voters conducted from October 14 to 19, 2021. Respondents took the survey via live phone calls conducted by professional interviewers on both landlines and cell phones and online, recruited via email solicitation matched from the TargetSmart voter file. The survey reached 813 adults, age 18 or older, who indicated that they were registered to vote in New Jersey. The overall margin of error is +/- 4.0%. The margin of error for subgroups is larger and varies. The data are weighted to be representative of the population of registered voters in the state of New Jersey.