Health Advocates Want Smoking Permanently Banned in AC
Advocates for health are calling for smoking to become permanently banned after Atlantic City casinos have stopped smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many years, smoking has been a huge debate between casinos and health organizations. Smoking is a habit that can be life-threatening and yet, casinos have been commonly associated with the activity for decades. Most players know that if they visit a casino, there is most likely going to be smoking taking place on-site. However, since last year, many casinos in the United States have been smoke-free due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health advocates in New Jersey are now calling for the ban to become permanent to help keep employees and patrons safe.
Permanent Smoking Ban
In New Jersey, smoking has been banned for quite some time in Atlantic City casinos. The activity could not be completed with a mask on, so venues banned it from taking place. Patrons who visited the venues have adapted and now, health advocates want to see the ban permanently integrated into the casino’s operations.
Casinos argue that taking away smoking on a permanent basis will push customers away. This would then lead to job loss and lower tax payments to the state. According to operators, air filtration equipment is being used to remove the smoke and keep the workspaces safe for employees and visitors.
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation says that currently in the United States, 20 individual states have gone smoke-free. New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have temporary smoking bans in place that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been 15 years since a state law was enacted to exempt the casinos in Atlantic City from indoor smoking bans. Opponents want to see the casinos added to the list. Bronson Frick is with the nonsmokers’ rights group who recently commented during an online news conference. He said that casinos are learning to do business different amidst the pandemic.
This year, it is taken for granted that airplanes and restaurants should be smoke-free, even though the change took place recently. According to Frick, 1,100 casinos in the United States have banned smoking. In Nevada, a major gambling state, smoking is allowed. However, companies have the right to set their own polices and some have chosen to ban the activity.
Valerie Vainieri Huttle is an Assemblywoman in New Jersey who commented that casinos have operated with a smoking ban in place because they had to, example being the coronavirus. The law that passed in 2006 may have exempted the casinos but bills were soon filed thereafter to ban smoking at the venues. However, the measures were unable to move forward.
While there is support for a smoking ban, there are still opponents. The Casino Association of New Jersey says the change would harm the industry. The group says that if smoking is banned permanently, it would have long-term financial effects for the industry as well as the state, particularly the Atlantic City region.
The Association says that it would give nearby casinos in other states an advantage because they offer smoking on-site. The argument by casinos is that jobs would be lost, along with revenues. The group says that casino operators understand the need for clean, fresh air. That is why air filtration systems have been installed and were tested due to the pandemic to ensure that the air quality is clean and fresh.
Way back in 2008, casinos in AC tried to ban smoking. It lasted all of three weeks. Many of the casinos saw declines in the double digits due to the change. It is unclear if legislators will make a move to ban the option or will continue to allow casinos to operate as normal, with smoking in place.