The scent of cigarette smoke at casinos has long been a fact-of-life. Even with designated smoking areas and non-smoking areas, casinos remain one of the few places left where people can light up without being directed to the door.
However, a proposed bill by Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) could change that.
The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 prohibits smoking in public places except for casinos, drinking establishments, cigar bars, and private clubs. Frankel’s recently introduced House Bill 2298 seeks to remove the exceptions.
Bill seeks to ban smoking at casinos
Frankel referred the bill to the Health Committee on Feb. 24. Thirteen additional co-sponsor signatures are on the bill. Vaping would also be prohibited.
Frankel commented to ABC27.com:
“With these loopholes, our laws say it’s okay if some people like workers, sports fans, children are at risk of getting sick. Well, that’s not okay with me. When we crafted our current law, we couldn’t have conceived of the wave of popularity that would put e-cigarettes in the hands of Pennsylvania’s children.”
Next steps for HB 2298 include debate and discussion in the House Health Committee.
The push for amending the Clean Indoor Air Act isn’t a fresh take. In 2017, Rep. Matthew Baker introduced a bill to the House. It didn’t go anywhere. In 2019, Sen. Dan Laughlin followed suit.
Casino and smoking laws
Currently, Pennsylvania law allows 50% of space to be designated for smoking at casinos.
Pennsylvania is home to 12 casinos with Live! Casino Philadelphia projected to open at the end of 2020. Also, up to four mini-casinos could be on the way. Most are equipped with state-of-the-art air filtration systems. Certain areas in casinos, such as bars and designated slot areas, allow smoking. But aside from signage, there is no physical barrier (i.e. walls) from smoking and non-smoking areas.
Jeff Morris, vice president of public affairs and government relations for Penn National Gaming, said to Penn Live:
“Smoking has always been allowed at Pennsylvania’s casinos. We strive to be a leader in this highly competitive business environment, and this is only obtainable when we can compete on a level playing field.”
Secondhand smoke a primary concern
The American Lung Association slapped Pennsylvania with a “D” grade due to its large number of smoking venues.
The Center for Disease Control weighed in on the matter, saying that allowing smoking in casinos presents a challenge for tobacco prevention and control efforts due to increased secondhand smoke exposure for both customers and casino workers.
According to the CDC, the level of smoking in a casino can be higher compared with other enclosed public places where smoking is permitted. One study revealed that 50% of the casinos sampled had air pollution levels known to cause cardiovascular disease after only two hours of exposure.
No amount of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe according to the US Surgeon General. The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is through 100% smoke-free indoor air environments.