Judge Rules in Favor of Going Ahead With N.J. Smoking Ban

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that New Jersey's ban on indoor smoking in most public places should go into effect just after midnight Saturday, ending a last-ditch bid by a group of bar and restaurant owners who wanted it delayed.

The group contended the temporary injunction was needed because their businesses will lose businesses and may lay off workers while they await the outcome of a constitutional challenge to the smoking ban.

But U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler nixed the bid for the injunction, saying the lawsuit by the New Jersey Hospitality Industry for Fairness Coalition is unlikely to succeed.

New Jersey at 12:01 a.m. Saturday is poised to become the 11th state to halt smoking in restaurants, bars, private office buildings and other indoor places. Regulations published by the state health department this week also mandate no smoking within 25 feet of a building.

The coalition of New Jersey restaurants, bars and bowling alleys sued the state last month over the new law because it allows smoking on the casino floors of Atlantic City's 12 gambling halls.

The coalition's lawsuit says the ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by singling out casinos.

The casinos contend that banning smoking in their establishments would lead to lost business, lower revenues, a drop in the state's share of casino revenues and, ultimately, lost jobs.

Bills pending in the Legislature would eliminate the casino exclusion. Supporters say the ban slated to go into effect would not have passed if it didn't exempt casinos, and that a partial ban was better than none.

Health advocates are hailing the ban as long overdue.

Other states with similar indoor smoking bans are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.