Buffered by major contributions from a tobacco giant Philip Morris to New Jersey Democrats, three Republican legislative candidates in Atlantic County are calling for a permanent end to smoking in Atlantic City casinos.
The GOP candidates – former Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) is running for the Senate, and former Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Deputy Attorney General Claire Swift for the Assembly – are opposing
Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order in 2020 that started Sept. 5 and ended July 4, 2021, that prohibited smoking inside Atlantic City Casinos.
Guardian said during the ban, casino revenue was up 10% in 2021 compared to the same time frame as 2019.
With health as the main focus, as Polistina explains, “the risks associated with secondhand smoke are very real and are not going anywhere unless we do something to change that.”
Swift also says that by banning smoking, Atlantic City could become family friendly.
“A smoking ban within casino properties would certainly encourage families to consider Atlantic City, once again, a family destination,” she said.
Philip Morris contributed $36,500 to Senate and Assembly Democrats and $22,00 to the GOP leadership committees, according to records filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Altria, which owns Philip Morris, is a longtime client of Princeton Public Affairs Group, the Trenton lobbying firm run by Dale Florio, a top advisor to Republican Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign to unseat Gov. Phil Murphy.
In 2019, Murphy had proposed a big increase in cigarette taxes. Ciattarelli opposed it.
Polistina faces Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) for the open Senate seat in the 2nd district. Guardian and Swift are up against Assemblyman John Armato (D-Buena) and Atlantic County Commissioner Caren Fitzpatrick.