Volunteers who are participating in the Smoke-free Mesquite initiative are doing more for the community than all the local governmental development efforts and business activities combined.
No amount of business development or tax collecting will heal the minds and bodies of those who smoke or are exposed to smoking. Only people insisting on their right to breath clean air can ensure they create a healthy living and gaming environment for residents and visitors alike.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, even brief exposure can be harmful to health.”(How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease, 2010)
Casino workers and local gamblers are the most in danger of smoking related diseases. According to J. Repace, “smoke filled casinos have up to 50 times more cancer-causing particles in the air than highways and city streets clogged with diesel trucks in rush hour traffic.” (Respirable Particles and Carcinogens in the Air: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2004)
While some gaming establishments offer smoke free areas, clean the air and ventilate the building, the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure remains, according to Repace.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act currently limits smoking tobacco within many indoor places of employment including: Public and private school buildings and on public and private school grounds, child care facilities with five or more children, all areas of grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores, all indoor areas within restaurants, including those in casinos or gaming establishments, shopping malls and retail establishments, video arcades, government buildings and public places, and movie theaters.
The provision to limit smoking tobacco in bars, taverns, and saloons that prepare and serve food was modified during the last legislative session. This modification allowed smoking if minors were not near. According to State Sen. John Lee, Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, this action was taken out of fear that bars would lose business. This fear was unfounded.
According to Nevada sales tax data, during 2009 and 2010, when the bar prohibitions were in effect, sales in that business sector actually outpaced the state's overall economy. See the report at: State Agency Economic Data Show Restaurant and Tavern Sales and Jobs Not Negatively Impacted by the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act
Of course the state legislature failed to ban smoking in the gaming areas of casinos, stand-alone bars, taverns, and saloons that do not serve food, strip clubs and brothels, and retail tobacco stores. They also overlooked the home office workplace (except if used as a child care or health care facility). Visitors and workers in non-public convention facilities and those associated with the tobacco, or convenience store facilities remain free to fill their lungs with tobacco smoke. Clearly, these exceptions show where money is being used to lobby legislatures.
According to the smoke-free mesquite web-site, there are 598 municipalities with a local law in effect that requires 100% smokefree bars, including the entirety of these 29 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. 37 nations worldwide also have smoke-free bars including Ireland, France, Hong Kong, South Korea, Turkey, Peru, and others
The Web-site also shows that 17 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington) along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, have enacted 100% smoke-free laws for all state-regulated gaming.
In addition, there are 1,893 states, cities, and counties with a law that
restricts smoking in one or more outdoor areas, including 980 that restrict smoking near entrances, windows, and ventilation systems of enclosed places; 1,261 that restrict smoking in public outdoor places such as parks and beaches; 231 that prohibit smoking in all outdoor stadiums and other sports and entertainment venues, 332 that restrict smoking in some areas within outdoor stadiums and other sports and entertainment venues.
Municipalities in 24 states have enacted smoke-free policies which include outdoor dining areas. In addition 4 states (Hawaii, Iowa, Maine and Washington) have statewide laws that prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas, as does the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Also, municipalities in 42 states have enacted smoke-free policies that make public parks smoke-free. In addition, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico prohibits smoking in all parks.
The health debate is over.
1. Second-hand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
2. Employees who work in a smoke-filled environment are 39% more likely to get lung cancer. (American Journal of Public Health, July 1998).
3. Relatively brief secondhand smoke causes heart attacks. (Institute of Medicine in 2009).
4. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, air cleaning technologies, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate secondhand smoke exposure, stating that conventional air cleaning systems cannot remove all the poisons, toxins, gases, and particles found in secondhand smoke. (2006 Surgeon General's Report).
5. Communities demonstrate a dramatic reduction in heart attacks upon implementation of clean air laws, by as much as 47% in some communities. (Institutes of Medicine).
6. Research confirms the contributing role of secondhand smoke in asthma attacks, lung cancer, and sudden infant death syndrome. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
The most often expressed failure to support the smoke-free initiative, is the fear of revenue loss from the casinos and bar owners. These fears are unfounded, overstated and economically unjustifiable. The economic debate is over:
1 Studies have shown that casinos and other gambling venues, just as it is for restaurants, bars, and other businesses, see increases in business. See: smoke-free law did not affect revenue from gaming in Delaware
2 Years of scientific evidence indicates that there is no negative economic impact of smoke-free policies. Indeed, some of the cost-savings linked with smoke-free policies for businesses include reduced medical costs associated with secondhand smoke exposure among employees, reduced absenteeism and improved productivity, lower cleaning and maintenance costs, and lower fire and insurance premiums. See: A summary of studies assessing the economic impact of smoke-free policies
3 A recent study conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno and the School of Medicine show that by saving lives, smoke-free laws also help save the state money. (See: The Impact of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act on Health Care Costs in Nevada
Currently, 83% of Nevadans agree that all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke in the workplace (Poll conducted January, 2011 by FM3) and Nevada's Clean Indoor Air Act has an anti-preemption clause which would allow local government to pass ordinances that would meet or exceed the minimum applicable standards in the Act.
Here is what needs to be done:
Elected officials should pass a no-smoking ordinance that adds to the current Clean Air Act by prohibiting smoking in gaming areas of casinos, stand-alone bars, taverns and saloons that do not serve food, and public outdoor sites. This will increase the number of visitors and residents in Mesquite by becoming the first no-smoking city in Nevada. Gaming business, as research shows, while improve the health of residents and visitors alike while also reducing the costs associated with smoking related illnesses.