FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
LAS VEGAS, NV – The American Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) Foundation (www.smokefreecasinos.org) this month announced the continuation of a campaign to work in collaboration with casino operators and public health groups to transition to smokefree indoor air policies that will benefit the health of gaming sector employees, patrons, and host communities. The latest conversations will be taking place at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) – an annual convention in Las Vegas which features exhibitions from gambling sector companies from around the world as well as sovereign Tribes.
At G2E, ANR Foundation and partners will highlight the positive steps many gaming operators have taken to address the issue of secondhand smoke. There are now more than 500 smokefree casinos and other gambling facilities in the US, and many more internationally – from Canada and much of the Americas to Europe and New Zealand.
“Today, it’s not your grandfather’s casino,” said Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. The industry has changed on many fronts over the past 20 years, and smokefree indoor air is one of those issues.”
The theme for G2E is “The Game is Changing,” and smokefree casinos should be a prominent component of discussions. Today, 82% of the U.S. population are nonsmokers, and people are much more aware of the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke in the workplace and are demanding smokefree entertainment venues, including casinos. Twenty US states include casinos and other gambling venues in smokefree workplace laws. Smokefree casinos also meet industry goals to be green, sustainable, and to be a good community partner as well as a responsible employer.
Today, there are many lessons learned, and best practices for making smokefree indoor air largely a non-issue for gaming operations. For example, architectural design firms are now taking a more thoughtful approach to planning for outdoor smoking areas conveniently located near gaming floors. From Horseshoe Cincinnati and Ameristar Black Hawk to Oxford Casino Maine and numerous proposals in Massachusetts, smokefree indoor air is becoming the industry norm and the brand experience patrons want and expect.
More casino operators now realize that strong smokefree laws are in the best interest of their company and shareholders. Smokefree laws help create parity and normalcy on this issue throughout a region. For example, the quicker that neighboring states adopt similarly strong laws, the sooner the industry will not have to deal with indoor smoking as a variable.
“Smokefree indoor air helps ensure a safe work environment for the employees in this growing job sector,” said Hallett. “Gaming job creation should not come at the expense of sickening the people and communities those jobs are supposed to be helping.”
The issue of smoke-filled casinos is pressing because workplace exposure to secondhand smoke remains a top preventable cause of chronic disease, healthcare costs, and premature death. 20 US states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands now include state-regulated gambling jobsites in smokefree workplace laws. A growing number of sovereign American Indian Tribes and Nations are also addressing the issue with smokefree and commercial tobacco free policies.
The risks posed by toxic secondhand tobacco smoke have been well documented for years. Exposure to secondhand smoke for as little as 30 minutes causes immediate effects on blood and blood vessels that raise the risk of an immediate heart attack.
“Secondhand smoke has a steep non-linear dose response,” said Hallett, “meaning that even a little exposure poses serious and potentially deadly health risks. The bottom line is there is no known safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The only known way to address the health impact of secondhand smoke in a building with 100% smokefree indoor air.
Health agencies, such as the Office of the Surgeon General, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the World Health Organization and even ASHRAE the standard setting body for ventilation, affirm that casino ventilation systems, smoking sections and smoking rooms do not address the health hazards of secondhand smoke.
A recently released report shed further light on the negative impact smoke-filled casinos can have on casino workers and patrons. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that when Colorado made its casinos smokefree in 2008, ambulance calls originating from casinos dropped by nearly 20 percent.
“Our findings highlight the all too real cost casino workers and gamblers pay while breathing in toxic air inside smoke-filled casinos,” said Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “We hope these new findings will serve as a wakeup call to casino operators and governments that have been slow to adopt responsible policies that safeguard public health and save countless lives.”
Beyond saving lives, the cost savings are also considerable. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), ground transportation ambulance costs in 2010 ranged from $224 to $2,204 per transport nationwide. If every smoke-filled casino in the country followed Colorado’s lead, the case for making all casinos smokefree becomes abundantly logical in sheer economic terms.
American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation is a national non-profit public health organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to breathe smokefree air. www.smokefreecasinos.org