According to a Stockton University public health poll released Friday, nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans support prohibiting smoking at casinos. The industry trade group, the Casino Association of New Jersey, opposes smoking bans.
South Jersey residents were also more likely than those from Central or North Jersey to say their communities have drug addiction and homelessness problems, according to the statewide poll of 640 respondents.
The Association for Children in New Jersey’s annual Kids Count surveys routinely place South Jersey counties near the bottom of the state for health indicators. The poll included Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, and Camden counties in South Jersey.
Burlington, Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, and Mercer counties were considered in Central Jersey, whereas Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties were included in North Jersey.
What did the Findings Say?
The findings on smoking in casinos support legislative efforts to narrow the state law gap that allows indoor smoking solely in casinos and simulcasting facilities.
A union representing casino dealers in Atlantic City is urging New Jersey lawmakers to make smoking illegal in the resort’s casinos. The United Auto Workers wants state legislators to hold hearings on a bill that would fix a loophole in state law that now allows casinos to be the sole indoor smoking establishment.
According to the union, members are subjected to having secondhand smoke sprayed in their faces for up to eight hours at a time. Casinos claim that prohibiting smoking will cost them money and result in layoffs. In the state Assembly and Senate, bills to repeal the casino smoking exemption are pending.
Bills in the state Assembly and Senate would repeal the casino exception from the state’s 16-year-old indoor smoking ban, and they have bipartisan support. However, neither bill has had a committee hearing, which is required before a measure can be moved forward in the state Legislature.
What Could Happen as a Result?
The industry trade group, the Casino Association of New Jersey, opposes smoking bans, claiming that casinos will lose some of their finest consumers. The poll was conducted by Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. There were also geographical disparities when it came to casino smoking.
Casino employees in Atlantic City believe they are closer than ever to passing legislation prohibiting smoking in gaming establishments.
Tuesday was the 16th anniversary of a New Jersey legislation that made it illegal to smoke practically anywhere indoors, with the exception of casinos. About 250 casino employees rallied in a waterfront park to urge the state legislature to enact a bill that has many bipartisan co-sponsors.
The casino business, as well as the primary casino employees’ union, oppose the law, claiming that it would result in job losses and lower income. There has yet to be a vote planned.
On the mental health front, 58 percent of individuals asked stated they or someone close to them had mental health issues, and over 70% of them claimed the issues have become worse since the coronavirus outbreak.
Nearly four out of ten (39 percent) poll respondents said the opioid epidemic had touched them or someone they know. Moreover, one-third of respondents (35%) consider drug addiction to be a major problem in their community, while 40% consider it to be a minor one.
South Jersey had the biggest percentage of people affected by the opioid epidemic (46%), as well as the highest percentage of people who claimed addiction is a major problem in their area (43 percent ). In Central and North Jersey, the rates were 30 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
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