The Associated Press
Thursday, November 16, 2006; 6:19 PM
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Casinos that helped push through an exemption to a new statewide smoking ban may have to start clearing the air anyway.
The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to introduce a proposal to eliminate smoking in all public places, including gambling floors at the city's 13 casinos.
A final vote could take place late next month, and the measure could take effect as soon as January if approved and signed by the mayor.
City Councilman Bruce Ward, a health care lawyer and a co-sponsor of the proposal, said he "became inspired by the cause" while attending a recent anti-smoking rally.
"People were giving their testimony about their lives and how their lives were impacted. Legislation at the state level takes a long time," he said. "Meanwhile, we have a health hazard that continues."
At the time the state law was passed, lawmakers said they lacked the votes to get a smoking ban through the Legislature without exempting casinos _ but they did add a provision allowing cities to craft tougher rules of their own. Cigar bars and simulcast racing sites also are exempt from the state law, which took effect in April.
Representatives of the Casino Association of New Jersey did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.