January 27, 2021 Casino, Legal, Land-Based

Nonsmokers’ rights group asks President Biden to address smoking in casinos

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ANR says smokers are allowed to remove masks during pandemic, creating a health hazard.

A group that advocates for smokefree indoor air on Wednesday said it has sent a letter to newly inaugurated President Joe Biden that asserts smoking in casinos threatens the health and safety of gaming employees and casino guests.

Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of the Berkeley, California-based organization Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, argued, “No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health.”

“Unfortunately, that is the decision too many casino workers are making today,” Hallett said in her letter to the president.

Hallett pointed out casino guests are required to wear a mask indoors at all times – but smokers are allowed to remove their masks to smoke or vape, “blowing potentially hazardous droplets into shared air for fellow guests and gaming employees to breathe in.”

According to Hallett, this increases the risk for transmission of COVID-19, among other health risks.

“No credible public health official would approve of allowing the removal of masks to smoke, but it is still standard operating procedure in too many casinos, despite the pandemic,” Hallett wrote.

The ANR noted the Culinary Union has come out in favor of smokefree indoor air at casinos. In addition, it cited statements by public health districts in Nevada urging casinos and other businesses to implement tobacco-free policies.

The group asserted it is hypocritical for the gaming industry to ask for tax relief while not banning smoking.

“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," Hallett wrote.

"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."

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