In Letter to Pres. Biden, Smokefree Casino Advocates Raise Concerns About Smoking Indoors
Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights concerned with industry-sought tax breaks and federal funding even as casinos fail to go smokefree indoors
January 27, 2021
Read the letter here
Berkeley, CA – As the new Biden administration seeks to get the pandemic under control, advocates for smokefree indoor air are raising the issue of smoking inside casinos that threatens the healthy and safety of gaming employees and guests alike. In a letter to President Biden, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR) highlighted President Biden's statement last week that “No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health.”
"Unfortunately, that’s the decision too many casino workers are making today," wrote ANR President and CEO Cynthia Hallett, MPH, in the letter to President Biden. "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. No credible public health official would approve of allowing the removal of masks to smoke, but it's still standard operating procedure in too many casinos, despite the pandemic."
Hallett noted that the Culinary Union has come out in favor of smokefree indoor air at casinos and that public health districts in Nevada have urged casinos and other businesses to implement tobacco-free policies. Further, the gaming industry is seeking taxpayer relief while not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.
"The casino gaming industry is seeking a federal tax credit to help cover costs associated with cleaning and disinfecting measures they have implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are pleased casinos have adopted these protocols to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we are concerned that, unlike a significant number of Tribal casinos, too many commercial casinos are failing to take a commonsense step that would have a significant effect on preventing the spread of the virus -- going 100% smokefree indoors," Hallett wrote. "According to the CDC, 'COVID-19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces,' with close contact and airborne transmission being much more common ways of transmission occurring. Yet too many commercial casinos refuse to address the more pressing matter of airborne spread through indoor smoking."
ANR also reiterated its request that casinos only received federal relief funding if they adopt smokefree indoor policies.
"Further, commercial casinos are seeking COVID relief funding in upcoming legislation in Congress. While we support efforts led by the American Gaming Association to secure such funding, given how hard the industry has been hit by this pandemic, we believe they 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," wrote Hallett.
In the letter, ANR concluded by noting the growing trend towards smokefree indoor policies.
"It is increasingly inevitable that all casinos will eventually go smokefree indoors, just as airplanes and restaurants have adopted such measures over the years. Today, nearly half of all states require such a policy. At least 160 sovereign Tribal gaming properties and Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip have gone smokefree indoors. In total, more than 1,000 gaming properties do not permit smoking indoors, including more than 200 that have adopted temporary policies in response to COVID. "
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/.