Atlantic City-Based Smoke-Free Casino Group Taking Campaign Nationwide

The smoke-free casino group that originated in Atlantic City says it’s taking its fight nationwide. The group,  “Casino Employees Against Smoking’s Effects (CEASE),” made the announcement at this week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.

A gambler plays a slot machine at Ocean Casino Resort on Feb. 10, 2022. An effort to ban smoking inside Atlantic City casinos is expanding its smoke-free gambling campaign nationwide. (Image: AP)

CEASE was formed after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) allowed smoking to resume inside casinos in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Murphy, who supports making the nine Atlantic City casinos go smoke-free, says he lacks the authority to singlehandedly repeal the current law that allows the casinos to designate up to 25% of their gaming floor space for smoking.

Though casino smoking remains permitted in Atlantic City, CEASE, led by cofounders Nicole Vitola, Pete Naccarelli, and Lamont White, hopes to form affiliates across the country in markets where indoor casino smoking remains.

This is not just a moment. This is a movement,” declared Naccarelli at The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip. “We are here to tell the casino employees of Las Vegas and everywhere around the country to contact CEASE, and let’s work together to get rid of smoking in casinos.”

CEASE revealed that chapters in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have already been established.

Smoking Kept Outside at G2E

The Global Gaming Expo is the premier trade show for the gaming industry. The annual gathering brings together more than 18K industry professionals, more than 250 exhibitors, and conducts 70+ sessions. But one topic that isn’t on the official G2E schedule is the ongoing debate surrounding indoor casino smoking.

G2E is organized by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry’s lobbying arm in DC. Reached for comment by CDC Gaming Reports as to why smoking wasn’t a session topic, the AGA didn’t directly answer. Instead, it said its program is “carefully calibrated” and focused on “macroeconomic headwinds, the evolution of responsible gaming, technology disruptors, the relationship between retail and online gaming, and more.”

Cynthia Hallet, president and CEO of “Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR),” says the industry is increasingly becoming more difficult to converse with when it comes to smoking. The smoking opponent says industry leaders should be able to sit down and talk with casino workers about why they believe jeopardizing their health is necessary to keep their resorts in business.

“G2E is ignoring the topic,” Hallet opined. “People don’t want to talk publicly about the things they can’t defend.”

Movement Growing

Smoking is allowed inside commercial casinos in 16 states: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

White says CEASE has been fielding interest from casino employees across the US who want to make their workplaces smoke-free.

Casino workers from other areas in the country are becoming interested in our progress and ready to join the fight,” White said.

CEASE’s Rhode Island affiliate is being led by Vanessa Baker, who has worked in casinos for nearly three decades.

“I can no longer be the canary in the coal mine,” Baker stated. She believes working in a toxic environment led to her becoming an active asthmatic who needs respiratory medication.

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