State Legislation Targets Smoking in Pennsylvania Casinos

Last updated on: September 17, 2023, 10:41h.

Pennsylvania Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) opposes smoking exemptions for businesses such as casinos. Frankel has introduced legislation in the Harrisburg capital for the second consecutive year to eliminate smoking loopholes for casinos and venues exempt from the state’s indoor smoking law.

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

In 2008, Pennsylvania enacted the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits indoor smoking in most public spaces and workplaces. However, certain exceptions exist for casinos, cigar lounges, private clubs, and bars where alcohol comprises the majority of revenue.

Frankel argues that forcing casino workers to endure toxic environments with prevalent secondhand smoke is unfair. Despite a requirement that Pennsylvania casinos limit indoor smoking to only half of their gaming floors, health experts assert that dangerous secondhand smoke still affects the supposedly nonsmoking areas.

Government Action Required

Pennsylvania is home to 18 brick-and-mortar casinos, with only Parx Casino in Bensalem and Rivers Casino Philadelphia being completely smoke-free. The rest of the casinos have designated smoking sections on their floors.

According to Frankel, most of the casinos are intent on allowing smoking, which he believes is unfair to employees and non-smoking guests.

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 recently introduced House Bill 1657, which seeks to amend the Clean Indoor Air Act by repealing provisions that permit indoor smoking in casinos and other businesses and clubs. The bill has been referred to the House Health Committee, which Frankel chairs. The committee is scheduled to meet on September 20th to consider the smoking legislation.

Casino Workers Supportive

The introduction of the anti-casino smoking bill by Frankel was greeted with enthusiasm by many Pennsylvania casino workers seeking a smoke-free workplace. The Pennsylvania chapter of CEASE (Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects) believes the bill has the potential 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.”

Smoking is still permitted in casinos in nearby Atlantic City and in West Virginia. However, casinos in Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Delaware, which border Pennsylvania, have implemented full indoor smoking bans.

In a research report published in February by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking & Health, it was concluded that smoke-free casino sections still contain “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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