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N.J. Health Committee Gears up for Long-Awaited Hearing on Smoke-free Casino Loophole

Public health and labor groups push to protect workers and make casinos smoke-free, calling on the committee to bring legislation to vote

February 12, 2023

TRENTON, NJ – FEBRUARY 12, 2023 – Tomorrow, February 13 the General Assembly will host its first-ever hearing on legislation to close the loophole for casinos in New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act. 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 smoking. Public health and labor groups have mobilized around the issue—with casino workers at the forefront, 100 of whom will be in attendance on Monday to share their experiences working in a smoke-filled environment. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) will join its allies at the hearing, providing testimony on the impact this legislation can have in preventing cancer diagnoses and deaths.

The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and the U.S. Surgeon General have found that occupational exposure to secondhand smoke increases workers’ risk of lung cancer and other diseases. Research has shown that smoke-free policies reduce workers’ long-term risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Comprehensive smoke-free policies also reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from heart, stroke and lung diseases.

The proposed legislation (S264 and A2151) has earned more cosponsors than most other bills this legislative session in Trenton. This support has extended to patrons; by a 2-to-1 margin, New Jersey voters support prohibiting indoor smoking in NJ casinos, and 7-in-10 New Jersey voters would prefer to visit a smoke-free casino.

In a rebuttal to critics of the legislation, representatives from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) stated that ventilation systems, of which they are the engineers, are not effective against secondhand smoke and cannot eliminate exposure. Additionally, a report by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts.

Jade Bechelli, ACS CAN’s Government Relations Director in New Jersey stated, “ACS CAN is eager to lend its voice in the push to eliminate indoor smoking in casinos, elevating the voices of the workers, especially those who’re dealing with cancer and health issues as a result of secondhand smoke and applauding Senators Vitale and Turner for providing the time and space for this critical discussion.” She continues, “New Jerseyans are ready for smoke-free casinos; we urge the General Assembly to bring this legislation up for a vote and once and for all protect the rights of casino workers and patrons to breathe clean smoke-free air.”

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About ACS CAN

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 improves the lives of people with cancer and their families. 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 advanced proven tobacco control measures. We’re more determined than ever to stand together with our volunteers to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. Join the fight by visiting www.fightcancer.org.

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Casey O'Neill
Senior Regional Media Advocacy Manager