Posted on: January 28, 2021, 02:58h.
Last updated on: January 28, 2021, 02:58h.
An anti-smoking policy group wrote President Joe Biden recently to warn him of the dangers associated with casinos continuing to allow gamblers to smoke indoors amid a pandemic.
The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) told the president that tens of thousands of workers employed in the US gaming industry remain at-risk of COVID-19 and various diseases due to the ongoing permittance of indoor tobacco smoking.
Much of our work focuses on smokefree workplaces, including casinos, where, currently in Nevada and many other states, guests must wear a mask indoors but are allowed to remove it to smoke (or vape), blowing potentially hazardous droplets into shared air for fellow guests and gaming employees to breathe in. This increases the risk for transmission of COVID-19, amongst other health risks,” ANR President Cynthia Hallet told Biden.
Nevada is the country’s largest gaming market. While the state’s casinos are restricted to operating at 25 percent capacity of their fire code, gamblers can still smoke indoors.
However, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively the No. 2 and No. 3 gaming states, have temporarily banned all indoor smoking. Michigan has also suspended indoor casino smoking at its three commercial casinos in Detroit.
Calls for Smoke-Free Casinos
The ANR took words right out of the president’s mouth when discussing its primary reason that all casinos should be smoke-free environments. During a speech last week in the State Dining Room inside the White House, Biden spoke about the importance of workers feeling safe at their places of employment.
“No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” Biden declared. The president was referencing that if someone who did not feel safe refused to return to their job, their unemployment assistance could be cut off.
Hallet says in her letter to Biden that the scenario he mentions is precisely one facing many casino workers. As state restrictions have eased in recent weeks, gaming industry employees are being called back, but in what Hallet believes are unsafe conditions.
The Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, supports smoke-free casinos. The union is part of the UNITE HERE national labor group and its 300,000 members who are employed in gaming, hotel, and food service operations throughout North America.
Hallet says the federal government should require casino companies seeking financial COVID-19 aid to pledge to go smokeless inside their properties.
“We believe they [casinos] should only accept taxpayer dollars if they agree to go smokefree indoors to reduce the spread of COVID and to ensure that safety of staff and guests is a priority,” Hallet explained.
Even the most advanced air filtration systems are no match for the toxic and potentially infectious environment created by secondhand smoke,” she continued. “Gaming employees and guests, many of whom may represent populations vulnerable to this disease, deserve better.”
Many states today prohibit indoor smoking in most businesses, but casinos often are exempted in some way or form. The ANR has launched a campaign to change that called Smokefree Casinos.