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April was a time to breathe in deeply in New Jersey. With the Smoke-Free Air Act in effect since mid-April, there is now a ban on smoking in work environments and places open to the public. New Jersey followed a ban on indoor smoking that New York had enacted. This includes places such as offices, factories, bowling alleys, taverns and restaurants. It includes hotel lobbies, parking garages, malls and even train stations.

A slap on the wrist fine of $250 for – – a first offense barely makes a statement, while a $500 fine for second offense and a $1000 fine for a third, fourth, fifth and each situation after that is just that, a slap on the wrist. Smaller establishments may feel the effects of those fines, while larger ones may not feel it at all. Many bars and restaurants balked at the proposal feeling it would drive customers to neighboring communities.

Many restaurants now have an «outside» sitting area for smokers, or you can find people standing outside of an establishment getting their fix before returning inside. There are a few exceptions to the rule such as tobacco establishments and cigar bars, but one that stands out and was a large issue during the discussions on the Smoke-Free Air Act was casinos. The purpose of the Smoke-Free Air Act was based on the fact that tobacco smoke can cause health hazards to those around the smoke.

Quoting directly from the Smoke-Free Air Act, «…it is clearly in the public interest to prohibit smoking in all enclosed indoor places of public access and workplaces.» It is for the good of the people in the state of New Jersey, because we care about your health. Wait a minute; you care about the health of New Jersey folk, but what about the casino workers? While it is known that casinos contribute a lot of money by paying taxes, it was mulled over about the employees who work in an environment swamped with smoke.

Those crazy exceptions had everyone talking. Talking was done, but no action. Employees complained of the second-hand smoke, but big money talks. Smoking continues today in casinos though some are now catching on and offering non-smoking areas on their playing floors to cater to those individuals who prefer to be in a non-smoking environment. Casino bars and restaurants will be smoke-free, while the gaming floors will continue on as a smoking area.