HB 1657 Eliminates Indoor Smoking, Closes the Casino Smoking Loophole
Advocates Say “No One Should Be Forced to Choose Between Their Health and Their Paycheck”
September 15, 2023 | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pennsylvania State Representative Dan Frankel introduced legislation to end indoor smoking in the state’s commercial casinos and protect frontline workers from being exposed to secondhand smoke on the job. The bill, HB 1657, will add all workplaces and public spaces to the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, and remove indoor smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, from bars, casinos and private clubs.
Advocates praised the legislation and called on state lawmakers to swiftly pass the bill so that workers, especially frontline casino employees, are no longer forced to breathe secondhand smoke on the job. After lawmakers failed to pass similar legislation last year, Rep. Frankel told PlayPA that he expects the legislation to pass by the end of this year with bipartisan support.
A coalition of public health experts and advocates for smoke-free air including Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released the following statement in support of the legislation:
“We thank Representative Frankel for his tireless commitment to ending indoor smoking in public places and protecting workers from being exposed to the life-threatening dangers of secondhand smoke. The data shows that casinos without indoor smoking not only protect health, they also perform better because they appeal to the vast majority of potential guests who prefer a smoke-free environment. State lawmakers across the country are considering similar legislation to close the casino smoking loophole and we encourage the Keystone State to swiftly pass HB 1657. No one should be forced to choose between their health and their paycheck.”
More and more casinos nationwide are going smoke free, including Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 160 sovereign tribal gaming venues implemented 100% smoke-free policies during COVID-19, 20 states require commercial casinos to be smoke-free indoors, and more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors.
Over the past three years, thousands of casino workers have joined the worker-led movement to close the casino smoking loophole. Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) is active in five states including New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas and Virginia. CEASE members have testified before legislators, sharing harrowing stories of pregnant women being forced to work surrounded by high-roller cigar smokers and some who have developed cancer after a lifelong career in the casinos.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found adult cigarette smoking rates in the U.S. dropped to an all-time low, with only 1 in 9 adults saying they were current smokers. Another report from the CDC Office on Smoking and Health examined air quality in Las Vegas casinos. The report, entitled “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Your Lungs,” evaluated particulate matter – an indicator for secondhand smoke – in casinos that are smoke-free indoors, and compared the results to casinos that allow smoking. They affirmed that prohibiting smoking throughout the entirety of a casino is the only way to prevent the harms of secondhand smoke.
Ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). “[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” reads their report. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
A report published by Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming found that casinos without indoor smoking outperform their smoking counterparts. “Data from multiple jurisdictions clearly indicates that banning smoking no longer causes a dramatic drop in gaming revenue,” wrote C3 Gaming. “In fact, non-smoking properties appear to be performing better than their counterparts that continue to allow smoking.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
Sister organization to the ANR Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for over 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 laws. 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://nonsmokersrights.org and https://smokefreecasinos.org.