Casino Workers Continue Fight for Smoke-Free Environment
In Atlantic City, casino workers are pressing on with their campaign for a smoke-free work environment. Their latest battleground was an unexpected one – the office of Senator Vince Polistina.
Members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) and United Casino Workers (UAW) recently staged a protest outside Senator Polistina’s office. They were unhappy with the senator’s change of heart, as he had previously supported the movement for a smoke-free environment in casinos but recently agreed to allow casinos to seek compromise solutions.
Amidst the plummeting temperatures outside, the activists were invited to discuss the matter indoors. They expressed concerns about the impact of the Smoke-Free Air Act in New Jersey, which allows casinos to dedicate up to a quarter of their indoor gaming space as a smoking area. Opponents argue that this exemption jeopardizes the health of casino workers who are exposed to smoke for prolonged periods. However, casino operators insist that a smoking ban would hurt their business.
While proponents of the ban have highlighted 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 volunteering workers would be present. However, CEASE contends that casino operators would simply coerce workers to volunteer for these spaces.
According to CEASE, there have been instances where casinos have assigned pregnant women and individuals battling cancer to work at smoking tables.
Senator Polistina empathized with the activists, acknowledging that New Jersey should move away from indoor smoking. However, he admitted that he had to change his stance for political reasons, as the South Jersey Democratic delegation recently lost seats, making the fight for a smoking ban an uphill battle.
Additionally, Polistina noted that Unite Here Local 54, another union representing casino staff, opposes the ban, as it believes it would drive patrons away to other locations. Despite this, Senator Polistina promised to vote in favor of a casino smoking ban if such a measure comes up for a vote in the Senate.