Atlantic City casino workers are continuing their efforts to create a smoke-free work environment, with their latest push taking them to the office of Senator Vince Polistina.
Representatives from Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and United Casino Workers (UAW) protested Senator Polistina’s recent decision to allow casinos to seek compromise solutions regarding smoking. Polistina, who had previously supported the smoke-free movement, had changed his stance, prompting the activists to take action.
Amidst freezing temperatures outside, the activists were invited to discuss the issue indoors. The heart of the matter lies in New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act, which allows casinos to designate up to a quarter of their indoor gaming space as a smoking area. Opponents argue that this exemption poses a health risk to casino workers who are exposed to the smoke for extended periods. However, casino operators believe that a smoking ban would negatively impact their business.
While supporters of the ban point to successful smoke-free policies in casinos in other states, Atlantic City operators remain steadfast in their opposition to a ban. Some have suggested compromise measures, such as enclosed smoking spaces where only volunteer workers would work. However, CEASE contends that casino operators would effectively force workers to volunteer in these spaces.
CEASE has highlighted instances where pregnant women and individuals battling cancer were assigned to work at smoking tables in casinos. Senator Polistina expressed agreement with the activists’ cause, citing the need for New Jersey to move away from indoor smoking. However, he explained that political considerations had compelled him to change his stance, as the recent loss of seats by South Jersey Democratic delegation had made the fight for a smoking ban more challenging.
Additionally, Polistina noted opposition from Unite Here Local 54, a union representing casino staff, which believes that a smoking ban would drive patrons away. Despite these hurdles, Senator Polistina assured the activists that he would vote in favor of a smoking ban if the measure were to come up for a vote in the Senate.