I’m Michelle Larkin, vice president for program management at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—thank you for the invitation to speak today and answer any questions you might have.
I believe that all of us in this room want New Jersey to be a place where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to reach their best health and wellbeing—no matter their race, ethnicity, or class.
And though New Jersey leads the nation in many measures of health, that opportunity is not everyone’s reality today.
Persistent gaps exist; laws and practices have the impact of putting greater value on some lives than others.
For the most part, smoke-free policies are a bright spot in New Jersey.
Reflecting our society’s values, we have strong, sensible laws that protect people in government workplaces, most private workplaces, schools, childcare facilities, and retail stores from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Even within the hospitality industry, people who work in restaurants and most bars—as well as the patrons they serve—are protected from second-hand smoke.
But not casino workers.
Denying casino workers protection has no basis in science.
It has no basis in equity.
There is no basis in common sense for some 20,000 New Jerseyans working in Atlantic City casinos, and the customers they serve daily, to be victims of a loophole that treats them as second-class citizens when it comes to their health.
Across New Jersey and the nation, health disparities hit people of color hardest.
On this, the casino industry is not an exception.
The industry employs a more diverse workforce than most in the US: 45 percent of the gaming workforce are people of color; 50 percent are women.
The threat their workplace poses is but one more obstacle to good health—one more example of inequity that has gone on too long.
The legislation being discussed today, A2151, would bring casino workers the protection to which they are entitled.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation appreciates your consideration of this issue and all that you are doing to make our home state a safer, healthier place to live and work—a place without inequitable structural, procedural, or legal barriers that shorten lives and threaten wellbeing.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.
Learn more about the Foundation's work advocating for higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free air laws, and well-funded programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.