Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Jersey Governor Boasts Huge Public Health Victory; Doesn't Mention Casino Workers

The New Jersey Governor has joined a prominent national nonsmokers' rights organization in deceiving the public by pretending that the smoking ban enacted last week is a sound public health policy that covers all workers and the public from secondhand smoke.

Last week, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) told their constituents and the public that: "New Jersey took one step closer to becoming a smokefree state! The New Jersey Assembly Health Committee voted 10-1 to pass Senate Bill 1926, which would make all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, 100% smokefree throughout the state."

Yesterday, acting New Jersey Governor Richard J. Codey pulled a similar act of deception and insincerity, telling his state's citizens: "Public health has won a major battle in Trenton. People will live longer lives because of this law. People who don't smoke will be protected from a killer they never intended to meet. We will remove the looming death cloud that hangs over the head of every New Jerseyan - smoker or nonsmoker."

One anti-smoking group, New Jersey GASP, did admit that casino workers were exempt from the health protection, stating: "Casino workers are getting smoked out of their workplaces. They deserve a healthy, safe workplace like everyone else. The concentration of second hand smoke is extremely high and they're getting lung cancer because of it."

The Rest of the Story

Codey's statement is, in my view, deceiving and insincere. How can he possibly claim that every New Jerseyan who had a looming death cloud over their head has now had this death cloud removed, since 48,000 of the state's workers (their casino workers) are not only exempted from the smoking ban's protections, but will in fact be exposed to increased secondhand smoke thanks to the new law?

It's not even clear to me that people will live longer lives because of this law. Certainly not the 48,000 casino workers who most certainly will not have their longevity increased by the failure to protect them from secondhand smoke. And by increasing secondhand smoke exposure among these large number of workers, it's not even clear to me that the increased health effects among the casino workers will offset the improvements in health among bar and restaurant workers.

The stupidity of this law never ceases to amaze me. Secondhand smoke is such a terrible health threat that smoking must be banned in all workplaces, bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys, but no - it's not bad enough to take the risk that we might lose some revenues from casinos. I don't see how policy makers (or public health advocates who supported the measure) could be less sincere.

This insincerity is evidenced by the statement of New Jersey GASP, which is publicly claiming that casino workers are getting lung cancer because of their high exposure to secondhand smoke. OK - if that's truly the case, then why wouldn't the group demand that casino workers be included in the law's health protection? If it's so bad a law because it exempts casino workers and needs to be fixed next year, then why support it this year?

The truth is - the law will most likely not be fixed next year or anytime in the near future. History demonstrates that it is rare that a state will strengthen its statewide smoke-free legislation in any reasonable length of time.

The law is particularly stupid because you can't smoke in a bar or restaurant in Atlantic City, but you can cross the street or go right down the road and smoke all you want, and for as long as you want, in any of the 13 casinos.

This is perhaps the greatest thing that could ever have happened to the casinos!

Imagine it: smoking is banned everywhere else except in your establishments. You might as well roll out a red carpet for the smokers and extend the other end of it all the way to the bank, to deposit your increased profits at the end of the day.

While I am critical of many anti-smoking groups for not being willing to stand up for their own principles and demand a level playing field for all establishments, that doesn't come anywhere close to my criticism of ANR for simply pretending that the problem doesn't exist and that the bill will actually protect 100% of all workers in the state, as the organization claimed to its constituents and the public.

I guess when you see something that threatens you, what you do if you're an anti-smoking organization is simply ignore it and pretend that it doesn't exist. As FORCES pointed out in highlighting my original post about ANR's deception: "By the logic of [anti-smoking groups] secondhand smoke is hazardous unless it is inhaled within the confines of a gambling joint. Most people grasp the contradiction contained within such an equation so anti-tobacco operatives must omit any reference to the thousands of workers whose health is at risk after [the New Jersey] smoking ban is imposed."

Yes - the contradiction is striking and I do think the public will be able to grasp it. So just like that, the state's 48,000 casino workers can be forgotten. It's like they don't exist...

...until they start showing up in the state's doctor's offices and hospitals with health problems from their increased secondhand smoke exposure.

If I were a casino worker, my first visit would be to the Governor's mansion to thank him for the huge public health victory in Trenton.

And if I were a casino owner, I'd invite the Governor to a celebration in honor of the casinos' good fortune. And let him smoke the victory cigar.

No comments: