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Atlantic City casino workers light up cigarettes to protest NJ legislators dropping smoking ban bill

AC casino workers light up cigarettes at NJ Senate Health Committee meeting in protest
AC casino workers light up cigarettes at NJ Senate Health Committee meeting in protest 02:20

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- A group of people lit up cigarettes in the middle of a New Jersey Senate Health Committee meeting in protest Thursday afternoon after legislators dropped from their agenda a bill to ban smoking completely in casinos. 

The group included Atlantic City casino workers associated with C.E.A.S.E. (Casino Employees Against Smoking's Effects) and members of the UAW, who represent the casino workers.

State troopers escorted the people who lit up cigarettes out of the State House.

For two years, casino workers, including Lamont White, have been lobbying state legislators to completely outlaw smoking on casino floors in New Jersey.

"Two days ago, I was on a table with two guys smoking cigars. It's horrible," White said. "Your eyes start burning. My throat gets raw, and I don't want to breathe." 

While smoking indoors is outlawed in practically all public places in New Jersey, right now, smoking is allowed on 25% of the gambling floor, but it doesn't all have to be in one area. 

But legislation stalled in the Senate Health Committee, which infuriated Daniel Vincente of the UAW. 

"We've been betrayed by our legislators, both Democrat and Republican," Vicente said. "They have completely caved." 

The Casino Association of New Jersey, which represents Atlantic City's casinos, said in a statement: 

"It is clear that more and more people realize that the bill, as drafted, will have a significant adverse effect on Atlantic City's economy. A broad coalition of stakeholders - workers, seniors, people with disabilities, civil rights organizations, labor, business, community leaders, and a number of legislators - oppose this legislation, recognizing that it will hurt working-class people, endanger thousands of jobs and jeopardize the millions of dollars in tax revenue dedicated to New Jersey's seniors and people with disabilities. We look forward to continuing this dialogue as we move forward, to find a compromise that will address the concerns of our employees without jeopardizing jobs and benefits to some of our most vulnerable citizens. The casino industry will continue to work with stakeholders on a compromise that supports the betterment of the city, the tourism and gaming industries and the collective interest of the entire Atlantic City workforce."

Sen. Vince Polistina (R-2) announced he's working on legislation that will serve as a compromise between casinos and casino workers.

The bill's provisions will include eliminating smoking at table games and gradually reducing smoking at slot machines, with minimum distances where slots can be located from table games, over 18 months.

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