NJ Lawmaker Wants Casinos Added to Smoking Ban - Saturday 21st of January 2006

TRENTON, New Jersey – As reported by the Press of Atlantic City: "An Atlantic County lawmaker wants to lead the effort to add casino gaming floors to a soon-to-be-enforced statewide smoking ban.

"Freshman Assemblyman Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, has introduced legislation that adds casino gaming floors to the Smoke-Free Air Act, which bans smoking inside public establishments, signed Sunday. Gaming floors are exempt from the ban under the current law, which goes into effect April 15.

"Gov. Jon Corzine did not say if he would support eliminating the casino exemption.

""Hundreds of bills are introduced in the Legislature annually," Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said. "This is one that we will be following."

"Whelan opposed the exemption for gaming floors during his campaign for Assembly, saying Atlantic City's 40,000 casino employees deserve the same protection from secondhand smoke as everyone else.

""It's only fair to apply the ban across the board," Whelan said.

"Whether the Corzine administration will tackle the issue immediately remains to be seen. Southern New Jersey lawmakers from both parties fought for the exemption.

""We'll see as it goes through the process," Whelan said. "I wasn't here the first time around. I'm here now."

"Similar legislation was also introduced Wednesday on the Senate side. Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, said adding gaming floors to the ban is a logical step.

""We've accomplished a significant smoking ban across most of New Jersey," Adler said. "Now, let's finish the job."

"The casino industry pushed for an exemption. They cited economic damages suffered in Delaware when smoking was banned at racetracks carrying slot machines. Gov. Richard J. Codey said last week he included the exemption as a political compromise, but added he expected the Legislature to revisit the issue later.

""As other states ban smoking, the economic argument will not hold water anymore," Codey said.

"The smoking ban covers all public places with the exception of cigar bars, tobacco retail establishments and casino gaming floors. Violators could be fined between $250 and $1,000.

"Cigar bar is defined in the legislation as "any bar, or area within a bar, designated specifically for the smoking of tobacco products, purchased on the premises or elsewhere." A cigar bar within a bar must be enclosed and equipped with a separate ventilation system.

"Tobacco retail establishment is defined as "an establishment in which at least 51 percent of retail business is the sale of tobacco products and accessories, and in which the sale of other products is merely incidental."

"Ten other states have banned smoking in public buildings.

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