Pennsylvania Casino Smoking Targeted in New State Legislation

Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) is no fan of smoking exemptions for certain businesses like casinos. For a second year in a row, the Allegheny County Democrat has introduced legislation in the Harrisburg capital that seeks to end the smoking loopholes for casinos and other venues currently immune from the state’s indoor smoking law.

Pennsylvania casinos smoking gaming
Cigarettes and cigars inside Pennsylvania casinos are being threatened by recently introduced state legislation. State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) thinks the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos should be forced to go entirely smoke-free. (Image: Shutterstock)

Pennsylvania passed its Clean Indoor Air Act in 2008. The law prohibits indoor smoking in most public spaces and workplaces. However, the law that was signed by Gov. Ed Rendell (D) provides certain exceptions for casinos, cigar lounges, private clubs, and bars where alcohol generates the bulk of the establishment’s revenue.

Frankel doesn’t believe casino workers should be subjected to working in toxic environments where secondhand smoke is prevalent. Though Pennsylvania casinos are limited to allowing indoor smoking on only half of their gaming floors, health experts say dangerous secondhand smoke lingers into the supposed nonsmoking areas.

Government Action Needed

Pennsylvania is home to 18 brick-and-mortar casinos. Only Parx Casino in Bensalem, north of Philadelphia, and Rivers Casino Philadelphia in the city proper are fully smoke-free casinos. The rest have maintained designated smoking sections on their casino floors.

Frankel says the majority of the casinos seem intent on keeping smoking. And the state Democrat feels that’s unfair to employees and guests who don’t light up.

Pennsylvanians should not have to choose between their jobs and their health. Despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that smoke-free environments attract more customers — not fewer — these businesses have not banned smoking on their own,” Frankel said in his newsletter this week.

Frankel last week filed House Bill 1657. The statute seeks to amend the Clean Indoor Air Act by repealing certain provisions that allow casinos and other businesses and clubs to permit indoor smoking.

HB 1657 has been directed to the House Health Committee, which Frankel chairs. The committee is set to meet this Wednesday, Sept. 20, to consider the smoking bill.

Casino Workers Rejoice

For the many Pennsylvania casino workers seeking a clean-air workplace, Frankel’s introduction of the anti-casino smoking bill was welcomed news. The Pennsylvania chapter of CEASE — Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects — said the bill poses the opportunity to save lives.

We thank Rep. Frankel for introducing legislation that we know will save our lives,” said Jen Rubolino, a table games dealer at Rivers Casino and the co-lead of CEASE PA. “Too many of us have been left to deal with the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke including cancer, asthma, and heart disease. It’s time to finally close the casino smoking loophole to protect our health.”

Casino smoking remains in nearby Atlantic City and in West Virginia. But casinos in the four other states that border Pennsylvania — Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Delaware — fully prohibit indoor smoking.

In research published in February, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking & Health concluded that smoke-free casino sections still have “elevated levels of Particulate Matter.”

“Despite robust evidence about the harms of secondhand smoke, tens of thousands of casino employees and tens of millions of tourists are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke in Las Vegas casinos annually,” said Office on Smoking & Health Policy Team Lead Michael Tynan. “The only way to protect people from secondhand smoke exposure is to prohibit smoking in all indoor areas.”

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