Casino works in New Jersey file suit over indoor smoking exemption

New Jersey Casino Smoke
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New Jersey casino employees are voicing displeasure with their work conditions.

UAW members have filed a lawsuit in the State Superior Court of New Jersey in Mercer County against Gov. Philip Murphy and Dr. Kaitlin Baston, the state’s Health Commissioner. The suit, brought on by Region 9 members, claims that workers’ rights are being violated for having to work in environments that are exposed to secondhand smoke.

The UAW represents employees at Bally’s, Caesars and Tropicana casinos in Atlantic City. It also backs Casino Employees Against Smoking’s (Harmful) Effects, an organization made up of over 3,000 workers from Atlantic City casinos. Members of CEASE have cancer or other smoke-related ailments despite not being actual smokers.

The plaintiffs argue that New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Pact is unconstitutional as it allegedly provides casino owners with the authority to allow smoking inside their facilities through an exception despite health risks. The UAW and CEASE are arguing that casinos should not be exempt from the ban on indoor smoking, which impacts other businesses across New Jersey.

“We’re taking the fight out of the backroom and into the courtroom,” said attorney Nancy Erika Smith to UAW and CEASE members during the lawsuit’s filing.

Legal efforts in New Jersey

The suit comes after previous failed attempts over the last several years to ban smoking inside New Jersey retail casinos.

In 2022, legislation was introduced in the Garden State that aimed to remove the smoking exception for casinos but the measure would be tabled. A year later, a new version of the bill would suffer the same fate after pushback from casinos.

In January, an amended measure was introduced. Senate Bill 1493, sponsored by Sen. Shirley K. Turner, was approved by the New Jersey Senate Health Committee following input from the American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN).

“Everyone has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air, and no one should have to compromise their health for a paycheck,” said Quinton Law, Government Relations Director for ACS CAN, following SB 1493’s approval by the committee.

SB 1493 currently sits in the Senate Health Committee with amendments following its second reading.