- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2006

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Vince Rennich and Alan Angeloni consider themselves among the losers in New Jersey’s battle to ban smoking indoors.

Although acting Gov. Richard J. Codey signed a law yesterday banning smoking in bars, restaurants and most other indoor public places, the rule excludes casino gambling areas.

Mr. Rennich, a casino table games supervisor, has lung cancer that he blames on 25 years of inhaling secondhand smoke.

“A good majority of the time, I’m surrounded in a cloud of smoke,” said Mr. Rennich, 47, who doesn’t smoke. “Even if it’s a no-smoking table, it doesn’t help. The way the smoke blows or drifts, you can only go so far. It’ll find you.”

For Mr. Angeloni, owner of Angeloni’s II, an Italian restaurant two blocks off the casino strip, the casino exemption is a matter of dollars and cents. Customers won’t be able to smoke at his tables or bar, but they will be at the city’s dozen casinos.

“It’s going to kill me, I know it is,” he said last week. “Do you know how many conventioneers eat here and come out to the bar to smoke afterward? You can kiss them goodbye, now. They won’t even leave the casino.”

The ban, set to take effect April 15, makes New Jersey the 11th state in the nation to prohibit smoking in restaurants and bars, according to the American Cancer Society. Smoking already is outlawed in New Jersey government buildings, and many private businesses restrict smoking.

Hundreds of cities and counties across the country also ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants or bars.

Chicago joins them today, when a ban on smoking in public places goes into effect, but the law gives taverns and restaurant bars in the city until 2008 to comply.

New Jersey exempted gambling areas at the request of Atlantic City’s $5 billion-a-year casino industry, which said a total smoking ban would cause losses in profits, state tax revenues and jobs. The law is the first in the nation to exclude gambling areas, although other state bans do not have jurisdiction over Indian tribe casinos, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

Atlantic City’s gambling halls employ about 48,000 people, and the state’s 8 percent tax on casino revenue netted $401 million last year for programs benefiting senior citizens and the disabled.

Lawmakers and anti-smoking advocates say the measure would not have passed the Legislature without the casino exemption.

“Two years ago, I couldn’t get this bill considered in either house,” said state Sen. John H. Adler. “I thought that that was as much as we could get, and the governor concluded the same thing.”

“We had a choice of protecting 98 percent of the people, or zero, and it was an easy choice,” said Regina Carlson, executive director for New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution.

The New Jersey Restaurant Association calls the ban discriminatory because of the casino exemption and plans to file suit asking a federal judge to block its enforcement.

“It should either be everybody or nobody,” said John Exadaktilos, owner of the Ducktown Tavern, about a block from the casino strip.

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