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Inquirer Editorial: A risk casinos can do without

Publication Date: 10/4/2013
  • Author:SUZETTE PARMLEY
  • Publication:Philadelphia Enquirer

The owners of Pennsylvania and Atlantic City casinos granted ill-advised exemptions from indoor smoking bans contend that they must look to smokers for a sizable share of the pot - and, thus, the state tax revenues generated by gambling. But what if smoke-filled casinos are triggering a haul of a different kind - of patrons sickened and, in extreme cases, having to be carted off to a hospital?

Troubling recent findings from a study of the impact of secondhand smoke in casinos drive home the commonsense notion that smoke-free gambling would be healthier for patrons and employees alike.

The study charted ambulance runs to Colorado casinos before and after the state banned smoking inside them. Once the state's two-dozen casinos went smoke-free, ambulance calls rapidly dropped 19 percent, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. That closely tracked the reduction in emergency medical calls reported at a sample of Colorado workplaces, restaurants, bars, and the like where smoking had been prohibited.

While similar data isn't available for casinos in this region, the Colorado findings offer further evidence that the best policy for public health would be to revoke most if not all smoke-free exemptions.

Efforts to do so were jump-started in Harrisburg over the summer by State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) and State Rep. Mario Scavello (R., Monroe), whose legislation would expand the state's indoor smoking ban to all public settings...

Leveling the playing field with blanket smoking bans in both states' casinos would be the best strategy. But failing a concerted effort in Trenton to ban smoking in Atlantic City - where gambling revenues have plummeted in the face of new competition - Harrisburg lawmakers need to do what's best for gamblers and casino workers in the commonwealth...