To the chagrin of health advocates, the City Council of Atlantic City is expected to consider a compromise today that would permit smoking in 25 percent of the city's gaming floors. City Council President William Marsh said that if the measure is approved, it would take effect by April 15.

Last month, the council gave preliminary approval to a measure that would have banned all smoking on casino gambling floors, closing an exemption left open in last year's statewide ban on smoking inside public places. Spokesmen for the gaming industry, however, have said that going smokeless would mean the loss of revenue, customers and jobs.

Casino workers and antismoking groups, however, argue that secondhand smoke imperils casino workers and they dispute the casinos' financial-loss predictions. "The introduction of this ordinance confirms that the health of the casinos' employees continue to take a backseat to Big Tobacco and the casino industry's exaggerated scare tactics," said Tom Duffy, an American Cancer Society vice president.

In a statement, Casino Association of New Jersey president Joseph Corbo supported the compromise. "While there will still be a significant economic impact and certainly significant costs involved with the implementation of this new ordinance, we believe that it will result in the loss of fewer local jobs than a complete smoking ban," Corbo said. - Inquirer staff