City Council Voted to Weaken the City’s Smoke-free Ordinance
New Poll: 74% More Likely to Visit Atlantic City Casinos If They Are Smoke-free
Ahead of Senate Health Committee vote on smoke-free proposal, polling data confirm that New Jerseyans want lawmakers to close the casino loophole
TRENTON, NJ – DECEMBER 13, 2023 – A new poll reveals that Philadelphia-area adults living in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are much more likely to visit Atlantic City casinos if they are 100% smoke-free. Nearly three in four adults (74%) stated they were more likely to visit an entirely smoke-free casino while only 26% stated that they were less likely. Last month, Senate lawmakers failed to seize the opportunity to close the loophole for casinos in New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act, forgoing a vote on the proposed legislation (S264 and A2151). On Thursday, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will hold another hearing at which the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and public health and labor groups will be calling for the legislation to be advanced out of committee.
“These data indicate that not only will Atlantic City not lose its customer base, but tourism could actually increase if casinos were smokefree,” said Jill Normington, Partner at Normington Petts, who conducted the poll.
When it was enacted in 2006, the Smoke-Free Air Act contained an exemption for casinos, enabling patrons to smoke inside the Atlantic City establishments despite the established risks associated with secondhand smoke. The proposal has received wide support from lawmakers, earning more cosponsors than most other bills this legislative session in Trenton.
"New Jerseyans have spoken, and they are in favor of casinos going smoke-free. We’re eager to see the Senate Health Committee members reflect the will of their constituents and vote in support of the smoke-free proposal,” said Quinton Law, Government Relations Director for ACS CAN in New Jersey. “Constituents are counting on their representatives to support the evidence-based position of public health groups and casino workers, holding steadfast in their commitment to protect New Jerseyans health and rejecting the empty claims from the casino lobby. Smoke-free casinos are in the best interest of the physical health of New Jerseyans and financial health of the state.”
The new poll found that Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents living in the Philadelphia area are more likely to visit a casino if it is smoke-free (76% and 71%, respectively), confirming that the adverse health outcomes associated with secondhand smoke are a factor in individuals’ decisions to patronize smoke-filled casinos.
The benefits of closing the casino loophole extend beyond the health of workers and patrons; secondhand smoke can be bad for business. Among the 69% of Philadelphia-area adults who are casino-goers (they have been to a casino in the past five years), 74% are more likely to visit a smoke-free casino. Among non-casino-goers, even more (76%) are sooner likely to visit a smoke-free casino, indicating that not only will Atlantic City not lose its customer base, but tourism could increase if casinos go smoke-free.
Smoke-filled casinos also wrought broader negative economic impacts. A 2014 Surgeon General’s report found that the economic value of lost wages, fringe benefits and workforce associated with premature mortality due to secondhand smoke was estimated to be $5.6 billion annually nationwide. The bipartisan bill aims to protect the health of workers and patrons as well as the financial viability of the casinos.
In a 2021 poll conducted by ACS CAN, New Jersey voters supported prohibiting indoor smoking in NJ casinos by a 2-to-1 margin, and 7-in-10 New Jersey voters would prefer to visit a smoke-free casino. Given the broad support among constituents and legislators, advocates expect the Legislature will pass the bill without any harmful amendments, such as that which secured Big Tobacco the loophole in 2006.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for evidence-based public policies to reduce the cancer burden for everyone. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging advocates across the country to make their voices heard, ACS CAN influences legislative and regulatory solutions that will end cancer as we know it.