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Do casino employees have the right to a smoke-free workplace? That’s what the UAW thinks.

Atlantic City casino workers sue state to overturn smoking ban exemption

Atlantic City casino workers sue state to overturn smoking ban exemption


Breathing second-hand smoke is still part of the job for many American workers, especially those employed in casinos.

“You immediately know you are in a place that is unlike any other place in 2024. No one is forced to smoke near you, you feel the effect as soon as you enter the casino,” said Lamont White , 61, dealer in Atlantic City. for almost 39 years, told CBS MoneyWatch. “My eyes are always red, I have upper respiratory infections all the time – nothing serious yet, but you never know,” said White, who works at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the one of Atlantic City’s nine casinos. All allow smoking.

“We stand at tables where they can smoke directly in front of our faces,” relayed Nicole Vitola, 49, also a dealer at Borgata and, like White, co-founder of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects, or CEASE, a grassroots association . band formed in 2021 in New Jersey.

A dealer in Atlantic City for 27 years, Vitola worked the smoky casino floors through two pregnancies. “At no time do they show any courtesy to pregnant drug dealers,” she said.

After agitating without success for more than three years to get lawmakers to ban smoking in Atlantic City casinos, CEASE and the United Auto Workers filed a lawsuit Friday in state Superior Court challenging a loophole in the state’s Health Quality Act. indoor air in New Jersey. New Jersey passed a law in 2006 banning smoking in indoor spaces and enclosed workplaces, but exempted casino workers from its protections, with smoking permitted on 25 percent of the casino floor.

“This legislation was supposed to protect everyone from the dangers of second-hand smoke. But somehow our casino workers were asked to roll the dice, all in the name of corporate greed “said UAW President Shawn Fain. “Every worker deserves safety on the job, and every person deserves equal protection under the law. By leaving out casino workers, the State of New Jersey is not holding up its end of the bargain.”

UAW Region 9 represents New Jersey workers, including more than 3,000 at Bally’s, Caesars and Tropicana casinos in Atlantic City, “many of whom have suffered and continue to suffer serious health problems from having to work in second-hand smoke,” according to the complaint. Casino employees “suffer from cancers and other smoking-related illnesses, even though they do not smoke,” the document states.

The lawsuit names Gov. Phil Murphy and the state’s acting health commissioner. Murphy, a Democrat, has indicated he would sign a smoking ban if state lawmakers pass it. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Casino Association of New Jersey, a trade group that represents Atlantic City’s nine casinos, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But the group opposed a smoking ban, arguing that such a ban would put the city’s casinos at a competitive disadvantage against establishments in neighboring states that allow smoking.

“The State of New Jersey has failed Atlantic City casino workers for 18 years. We have allowed a false argument about economics to subjugate our duty to protect the people we serve, and in doing so, we have allowed companies from poisoning their employees for nearly two decades,” Joseph Vitale, New Jersey state senator, said in a statement supporting the lawsuit.

In 2022, 26 states had commercial casinos employing more than 745,000 people, including 22,796 in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission’s latest annual report.

Casino workers are also leading campaigns to close smoking loopholes in other states, including Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.

Dealers, bartenders and technicians who maintain slot machines in U.S. casinos are exposed, at work, to vapors from customers’ cigarettes still legally allowed to light in gambling establishments in 20 states, according to CEASE.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke. Additionally, allowing smoking in casinos puts 96,000 Las Vegas casino workers at risk, the agency found in a report released last year.

Separate data released in June 2022 by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that indoor smoke-free casinos outperformed their smoking counterparts.

“While Nevada businesses almost always protect workers and guests from the known dangers of indoor passive smoking, casinos are the exception,” Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) said in calling for protection. stopping indoor smoking in the state.

MGM announced in 2020 that Park MGM, which includes NoMad Las Vegas, would become the first completely smoke-free casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Other casinos have non-smoking sections.

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