Black casino employees among frontline workforce breathing in secondhand smoke on-the-job, adding to history of inequitable health challenges
February 19, 2021
Berkeley, CA – Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, released the following statement:
“As we reflect on Black History Month, we call on casinos to not just say the right thing on equity and inclusion — they must also enact policies that back up their words. We applaud casinos that have decided on their own to provide smokefree workplaces for their employees. Yet too many casinos fail to provide healthy workplaces for these employees. In fact, nearly 84 percent of casino workers breathe in secondhand smoke on the job. Even the most advanced air filtration systems are no substitute for a smokefree indoor environment that gaming employees and guests deserve. In 2021, why are gaming employees still expected to work in a toxic, smoke-filled environment?
“Casinos employ one of the most diverse workforces in the country. This workforce includes a significant number of Black employees, who are the same Americans who have been targeted for years by the tobacco industry through predatory advertising, who disproportionately suffer from chronic illnesses exacerbated by secondhand smoke exposure, and who now struggle to access care and a vaccine during a pandemic. At the same time that frontline casino workers breathe in toxic air, overwhelmingly white management teams sit in smokefree offices, out of harm’s way. If a smoking environment is not acceptable for some employees, it shouldn’t be for any employee. We call on casinos to back up their words with actions–adopting smokefree indoor policies–that protect all employees from dangerous secondhand smoke.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smokefree. At least 160 sovereign Tribal gaming venues have implemented 100% smokefree policies during COVID-19, 23 states require commercial casinos to be smokefree indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
In a joint statement in July, the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, and Carson City Health and Human Services expressed concerns with smoking in casinos. “Businesses cannot adequately reinforce the proven risk reduction strategy of wearing face coverings while also allowing smoking…The primary mode of transmission of the virus is through person-to-person spread of respiratory droplets. As people remove face coverings to smoke or vape, they are exhaling respiratory droplets over a longer distance. The act itself requires individuals to more frequently touch their face and mouths – another direct contradiction to recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies.”
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar law. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://no-smoke.org/ and https://smokefreecasinos.org/.