Backers of Ban at Casinos Blow Smoke at Legislators

Demonstrators say they wanted officials to know what secondhand smoke at work is like
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 14, 2023 5:20 PM CST
Protesters Make Legislators Experience Secondhand Smoke
New Jersey state Sen. Vince Polistina demonstrates with Atlantic City casino workers on behalf of a bill that would ban smoking in the casinos in December 2021.   (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)

With prospects for a smoking ban in Atlantic City's casinos looking hazier than ever, workers who want smoking banned took matters into their own hands, lips, and lungs on Thursday. Members of the United Auto Workers union disrupted a meeting of a state Assembly committee that had been scheduled to take a preliminary vote on a bill to ban smoking in the casinos by lighting cigarettes and blowing smoke toward legislators, the AP reports. That vote was canceled Wednesday night when one of the main champions of workers who want smoking banned in the gambling halls gave up on a bill that would end smoking in the nine casinos and embraced some measures the casino industry wants, including enclosed smoking rooms.

Seven members of the union, which represents dealers at three casinos in Atlantic City, began smoking in the meeting hall of the State House Annex, where, like virtually all other workplaces in New Jersey, smoking is prohibited. "We're not allowed to smoke in your workplace, but you're allowed to smoke in ours," Daniel Vicente, a union regional director, told lawmakers through a cloud of exhaled smoke. He and the others were soon escorted out by state police and released without charges. "They say it's OK for secondhand smoke to be blown in our faces all day, every day," Vicente said later. "We wanted to know if it's OK if we did that in their workplace. They said it was inappropriate and not allowed here."

Angry workers said they want the Democratic leadership to force a vote on the original bill that would impose a total smoking ban. But state Sen. Vince Polistina, a Republican from the Atlantic City area who has appeared with casino workers at rallies in favor of a smoking ban, said the original bill is going nowhere. He said he's writing a new measure incorporating proposals favored by the casino industry while still working toward the goal of keeping secondhand smoke away from workers and customers who don't want it, per the AP. Pete Naccarelli, a Borgata dealer and a leader of the employee anti-smoking movement, said Polistina is "copying and pasting casino executive talking points and attempting to present them as a credible solution. It's shameful and disgusting."

(More smoking ban stories.)

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