On a recent visit to a casino hotel, I had a non-smoking room.

Well, almost.

To get to my “non-smoking” room I had to walk through part of the casino, which was filled with cigarette smoke. Although there was a non-smoking area in the casino, smoke permeated it, too. Same for the hotel’s lobby, elevators and hallways.

My eyes filled with tears on my way to my room and my clothes reeked of cigarette smoke by the time I reached it. I couldn’t avoid the smoke.

When it comes to casinos, there’s really no such thing as “non-smoking.” Which makes me wonder if it isn’t time to end smoking in casinos.

The US Surgeon General’s report on the health consequences of smoking published this year finds that more than 20 million premature deaths can be attributed to cigarette smoking during the last half-century.

The report confirms the serious health effects of secondhand tobacco smoke where it states, “Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke has been causally linked to cancer, respiratory, and cardiovascular diseases…”

Considering only casino employee health, and the heart, lung and cancer diseases which come from their exposure to hours of secondhand smoke daily, why should they have to endure gamblers’ smoke to keep their jobs? Don’t casino employees have a right to a safe, healthy workplace?

Smokers point out they have rights too, but the question I would ask is: Does the right to smoke trump the right of a person to work in a safe, healthy workplace?

Dr. Georg Matt a San Diego State University professor who led a study, published in the journal Tobacco Control entitled, “Thirdhand smoke and exposure in California hotels: non-smoking rooms fail to protect non-smoking hotel guests from tobacco smoke exposure,” has stated that nicotine residues and other chemical traces “don’t stay in the smoking rooms. They end up in the hallways and in other rooms, including non-smoking rooms.”

Shouldn’t nonsmokers be able to stay in truly non-smoking rooms in casino-hotels? Shouldn’t nonsmokers have the right to be protected from tobacco smoke disease when they travel?

The study’s data included scientific analyses of nonsmoking test subjects staying in hotels with a mix of smoking and non-smoking rooms, compared to those staying in hotels where smoking is banned. Skin and urine analysis showed that test subjects staying in hotels with a mix of smoking and non-smoking rooms had statistically higher levels of nicotine on their bodies, and elevated levels of urine cotinine, compared to subjects staying in the hotels with complete smoking bans.

The test subjects staying in the most polluted rooms of the hotels which permitted some smoking also had a significantly higher concentration of urinary NNAL, a potent pulmonary carcinogen, than other test subjects at those hotels.

Extrapolating those results to casinos themselves with virtually no real barriers between smoking and non-smoking areas, for the most part, and we immediately see scientific evidence that even the non-smoking areas of casinos are dangerous to our health.

The study concluded that, “Partial smoking bans in hotels do not protect non-smoking guests from exposure to tobacco smoke and tobacco-specific carcinogens.” At this point in my life, I don’t stay in hotels or go to casinos which aren’t 100 percent smoke free.

It’s unhealthy to do otherwise.

Is it it time to ban smoking at casinos?

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