Atlantic City, NJ,-- This Thursday, April 15, 2021, at 11:00 AM EDT, a virtual press conference will be held via Zoom followed by a 12:00 PM live event in Atlantic City on the Boardwalk at Kennedy Plaza, both in honor of the 15th anniversary of the NJ Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA). The SFAA was passed to protect workers and patrons across the state from secondhand smoke, with a glaring exception: casinos. On Thursday we will celebrate this milestone, but also draw attention to the fact the health of casino employees is still in jeopardy. The SFAA protects most of New Jersey’s workforce, protecting almost all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, from the secondhand smoke of cigarettes and cigars as well as the aerosol from e-cigarettes. A bill has been introduced in the New Jersey Legislature to close the loophole and require casinos to prohibit smoking, which would finally offer a clean, safe and healthy destination to work and play.

In the midst of the pandemic, when casinos re-opened in July 2020, smoking was not allowed indoors, providing a “silver lining” for casino employees. The restriction is expected to continue throughout this public health crisis, but as of today, it is still only temporary. Now is the perfect time to make a seamless transition to permanently smoke-free casinos and ensure that casino employees have the same protection as other workers in our state.

Representatives from the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, New Jersey Prevention Network, Atlantic Prevention Resources, and the Smoke Free Atlantic City Coalition will host a virtual press conference with some sponsors of the bill to share information and answer questions from the media. A live event in Atlantic City will follow at 12:00 PM at Kennedy Plaza and streamed to the SmokeFree AC Facebook.

In support of casino workers, bill S1878/A4541 was introduced by Senator Shirley Turner, Senator Joe Vitale, Senator Chris Brown, and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

“When the Legislature passed the Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006, it was a step toward ensuring that ALL New Jerseyans have access to safe, healthy, smoke-free workplaces. We know that exposure to secondhand smoke presents serious health risks, and it is time that casino workers have the same protection from this danger as other indoor workers in the state,” said Senator Shirley Turner

“As we emerge into a “new normal” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, our priorities must be to promote policies in the interest of public health, that includes prohibiting smoking in casinos. Over the course of the last year, casinos have successfully adjusted to operations with smoking bans, now is the time to make these changes permanent and ensure a healthier New Jersey moving forward,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

“New Jersey enacted the Smoke-Free Air Act fifteen years ago because it is proven that exposure to secondhand smoke is a critical health threat. It is unacceptable that casino workers in the state are still risking their health each day just to earn a paycheck and support their families while most other employees in New Jersey have access to safe and healthy workplaces,” said American Heart Association Corinne Orlando Director, Government Relations.

“All New Jersey employees deserve an equal opportunity to breathe smoke-free air. New Jerseyans should not have to choose between financial security and their health. It is time to offer the same protection from secondhand smoke to our casino employees that the rest of the state enjoys,” said New Jersey Prevention Network Diane Litterer, CEO, and Executive Director. “There is no safe level of exposure for secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals, including at least 70 that can cause cancer. Casino employees are the only workers in New Jersey who are not protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke. They put their lives at risk to keep their jobs. We must protect the health of all casino employees and patrons by prohibiting smoking including the use of e-cigarettes where they work. We must ensure everyone can breathe fresh air while they are working and those who are enjoying all that the casinos offer,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Michael Davoli, New Jersey Government Relations Director.

“For 15 years most New Jerseyans have enjoyed the health benefits of smoke-free New Jersey. As we celebrate this momentous occasion, we call on the legislature to close the one remaining loophole, make our casinos smoke-free permanently. All New Jerseyans have the right to breathe healthy air at their workplaces,” American Lung Association Michael Seilback, National AVP, State Public Policy.

“Casino employees are the only workers in New Jersey who have faced the deadly effects of secondhand smoke for most of the last 15 years. Now is the time to remove the casino floor exemption in the NJ Clean Indoor Air law and make sure that casino workers have the same right to safe air as restaurant and bar employees. No worker should have to sacrifice their health to get a paycheck,” said Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy of the Northeast Region.

There are multiple free resources available to help smokers in New Jersey quit. New Jersey residents can access the NJ Quitline at 1-866-NJSTOPS for cessation services or visit one of 11 state-funded Quit Centers throughout New Jersey. For additional resources and to learn more, please visit Tobaccofreenj.com.