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A followup with New Jersey business owners about smoking ban

Sunday, September 24, 2006-On April 15, 2006, New Jersey joined 43% of the country by enforcing legislature that bans smoking in bars and restaurants, while still allowing smoking in casinos. Customers now have to walk outside to light up, which, in some places, such as some local colleges and businesses, have had their own respective restrictions placed on them. This measure extended to bars within hotels as well, though some hotels were allowed to maintain smoking rooms. Six months later, bartenders and customers are still talking about the law.
Susan Volek, the manager of the bar in the Sheraton Hotel in Eatontown, New Jersey doesn’t see the smoking ban affecting business.
“Guests still make negative comments about the fact that people can smoke in the casinos and not bars.” Volek said Sunday. “I am a non smoker, but second hand smoke hasn’t phased me in the 25 years I’ve been working in the bar industry.”
Regardless of the fact that many bar tenders do not smoke themselves, they see smoking as a personal choice, and not something that should be regulated by the government.
Aaron Plant, a bartender at the Olive Garden in Eatontown, New Jersey, is a smoker who doesn’t believe that the smoking bill has deterred the customers, but understands why the state government would be harder on the bars than the casinos.
“Of course people can still smoke in casinos; the revenue from casinos goes to the state.” Plant said Saturday. “What goes on in a restaurant should be the owner’s choice, just like the customers have a choice which place to go in.”
While those that work in hotels and restaurants don’t see a significant change in the revenue the businesses bring in, employees at local standalone bars have noticed small drop-offs in the amount of customers. “Some people like to smoke while they drink, it goes hand and hand.” said Linda Buck, bartender of Old Bridge Bar and Liquor on Monday. “Government regulations add animosity and inconvenience customers, make them want to stay home, where they can smoke.”
And while the federal and state governments have been banning smoking, they have not been setting up places outside for people to smoke.
“There are no safe areas set up by the government for people to smoke.” Buck said.
Any business who violates the act, called the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, faces fines anywhere from $500-$2000. Lawmakers maintain that the only way this bill would have been passed was to exempt the state’s casinos. New Jersey is only the 11th state to enact the statewide ban, and the only state to make exceptions to certain establishments.
“This is the most important bill I will ever sponsor,” said sponsoring senator John H. Adler (D-Camden) in a January 18th Press release. “It will save thousands of lives every year.”
The bill, which was promoted in the interests of public health and saving lives, does not account for the nearly 48,000 casino workers in the state of New Jersey. Governor Richard J. Codey, while signing the Smoke Free Air Act into legislation, simultaneously signed a bill raising the tobacco purchasing age in New Jersey from 18 to 19.
John Keyser

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