If you’re looking for a hero, look no further than a group of UAW members who work in Atlantic City casinos.

At last week’s Assembly hearing inside the New Jersey State House regarding finally banning smoking in casinos things weren’t going the workers’ way. After years of pushing for equal treatment to bars and restaurants across the state whose workers have been protected from harmful second-hand smoke since 2006 it looked like they would finally get the ban they long sought.

Smoking a cigarette
Photo via henrischmit

Then the lobbyists showed up.

The deep-pockets of the gaming industry pulled out all the stops and pushed back hard. They lobbied the feckless politicians until the bill was losing the votes sponsors thought they had in the lame duck session.

The pols punted.

Seeing the writing on the wall this group of casino employees did something magnificent. To prove their point, they pulled out cigarettes right inside the hearing where, of course, smoking is not allowed, and the lit up.

They were told to stop. They were told by politicians who didn’t care about their health that they weren’t allowed to do that.

“We’re not allowed to smoke in your workplace, but you’re allowed to smoke in ours,” one worker told the lawmakers.

Ironic, huh?

Now I don’t know if these 7 happen to already be smokers and were doing it to stand up for the rights of the many more non-smoking casino workers. I don’t know if they were non-smokers willing to take one for the team. Or a combination. None of that matters.

royal flush of shamrocks between betting chips.
Photo via kiko_jimenez

What matters is they defiantly proved the lawmakers to be exactly what they are.


Hypocrites who whined when someone smoked in their precious smoke-free chamber. After whining, they had the smoking workers removed. They threw them out. Because their own right to breathe clean air was being violated.

And that is the very point. That’s how it should be everywhere.

The casinos argued they will lose money if smoking sections are no longer allowed. That there’s too much competition from nearby casinos in other states.

It’s all about the money you see. And it’s the same argument bars and restaurants made when they were finally forced by law to ban smoking indoors.

dollar denominations with fine coins
Photo via denisvrublevski

Funny thing happened though. Those dire predictions of a smoking ban killing business turned out to be largely unfounded. In many cases restaurants and bars ended up doing better business, not worse.

But does the money matter? When you’ve doomed casino workers to choose between their health or being treated like second-class citizens with unequal rights to all other workers in the state just for a paycheck, it’s an outrage.

I hate hypocrisy. I love the ‘smoking 7’ for having the guts to light up and point it out.

It’s a level of badassery New Jersey needs more of.

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