ew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday ordered a ban on all smoking inside casinos, the same day it was to have been allowed to resume after more than five months.

“I am announcing we will take administrative action to prohibit smoking in indoor casinos. We have looked closely at the science and agree with experts that have concluded that allowing smoking is too large a risk to take,” Murphy said at his press conference, The Press of Atlantic City reports.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases climbed by nearly 500 overnight, Murphy said, putting the total at more than 193,000. The death toll climbed by 7 to 14,195.

Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato welcomed the smoking ban. “As we work to combat the spread of a virus that’s easily transmissible through the air, temporarily banning smoking in casinos is the best decision for the safety of workers and patrons alike,” the two said in a written statement. “Prohibiting smoking will make it easier for casinos to filter clean air, which experts agree is key to slowing the virus’s spread in indoor spaces.”

Murphy on Tuesday issued an executive order that allowed the resumption of indoor dining as well as beverage services on casino floors and the resumption of smoking indoors at places it was already allowed. The decision on smoking raised health concerns from employees and guests.

Per COVID-19 regulations before Murphy’s announcement Friday, guests had to wear a mask when not smoking or drinking on the casino floor and had to remain seated while doing so. Now the masks can only come off for drinking on the casino floor.

By local ordinance, casinos are allowed to have smoking on 25% of the gaming floor at both table games and slot machines. A 2008 Atlantic City visitor profile survey —no such study has been conducted since— performed by Spectrum Gaming Group for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority found that 23% of casino customers smoke. As of 2018, the CDC estimated that less than 14% of Americans smoke.

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