American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
New Jersey Prevention Network
Smoke-Free Atlantic City
For immediate Release
Statement from Health Advocates in New Jersey on Keeping Casinos Smokefree
New Legislation Fails to Protect Workers and Casino Patrons
We are incredibly disappointed to learn that the legislation (A5820/ S3866) introduced today would terminate the public health emergency declared by Governor Murphy to address the COVID-19 pandemic, fails to keep New Jersey’s casinos smokefree. Returning New Jersey casinos back to smoke-filled rooms defies science, ignores facts, and needlessly endangers the health and lives of thousands of casino workers and patrons.
While COVID-19 rates may be declining in New Jersey, the virus is still a threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), being a current or former smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The connection between smoking and severe illness from COVID-19 is why smokers were given early access to the COVID-19 vaccines in New Jersey. 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 secondhand smoke. With masks no longer required for employees or patrons in casinos, keeping casinos smokefree is the only protection left against secondhand smoke.
Since July 2020 more than 22,000 casino employees and millions of casino patrons in New Jersey have been able to breathe fresh air while working at and enjoying New Jersey’s casinos. Meanwhile, according to the American Gaming Association, casino gaming revenues in New Jersey are up 30% in Q1 2021 over 2019 and up 32% over Q1 2020. Furthermore, a leading casino influencer vows to only visit smokefree casinos— and a survey of his followers finds that they too overwhelmingly prefer smokefree casinos. And despite COVID-19, casinos are reinvesting millions in their properties.
All of these facts demonstrate that smokefree casinos are not only good for public health but good for business. It is incredibly disappointing that state leaders are considering going backward on public health and ignoring the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis.
A poll conducted by The Press of Atlantic City asking if smoking should return to Atlantic City casinos shows overwhelming support for keeping casinos smokefree. This is not surprising given that less than 14% of New Jersey adults smoke, yet almost all casino patrons were subjected to secondhand smoke when visiting a casino prior to 2020.
COVID-19 changed the way we live and work. This is not the time for us to go backwards on health if we want to attract new casino patrons while protecting the health of casino workers. The New Jersey Legislature and Governor Murphy must keep in place the emergency prohibition on smoking indoors in casinos and make them permanently smokefree by enacting A4541/S1878.