Pennsylvania Rep Pushes to Close Smoking Loophole in Casinos

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Fervently opposed to smoking exemptions for certain businesses like casinos, Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) has yet again presented legislation in the Harrisburg capital hoping to eradicate this legal loophole. This represents his second consecutive year of advocacy for the termination of smoking exemptions for casinos and other venues that currently enjoy immunity from the state’s indoor smoking rules.

Despite Pennsylvania ratifying the Clean Indoor Air Act back in 2008, proscribing indoor smoking in most public and work spaces, the law, sanctioned by Governor Ed Rendell, houses specific dispensations for casinos, bars where alcohol yields the majority of profits, cigar lounges, and private clubs.

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The underlying bone of contention lies in Frankel’s conviction that employees within the casino industry shouldn’t be obligated to work in detrimental environments polluted by secondhand smoke. Currently, the state permits casinos to allow indoor smoking on only fifty percent of their gaming floors. Nonetheless, health experts have raised concerns that the ominous secondhand smoke pervades even the intended nonsmoking sectors.

Home to 18 traditional casinos, only two establishments in Pennsylvania, namely Parx Casino located in Bensalem and Rivers Casino Philadelphia based in the actual city, declare themselves as fully smoke-free. The remaining entities have preserved allocated smoking zones on their casino floors.

Frankel remarked that it seems a majority of the casinos are insistent on perpetuating smoking, creating an unfair predicament for employees and guests who refrain from lighting up. He states, “Pennsylvanians should not have to choose between their jobs and their health… Despite compelling evidence implying that smoke-free spaces attract a greater customer base, these operations haven’t ostracized smoking.”

This sentiment sparked the initiation of House Bill 1657 by Frankel, aiming to make amendments to the Clean Indoor Air Act; chiefly, removing the current provisions that authorize indoor smoking in casinos and other businesses and clubs. The bill is under the scrutiny of the House Health Committee which is chaired by Frankel himself and set to deliberate on this issue on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Pennsylvania casino workers in favor of a smoke-free work environment regard the introduction of the anti-casino smoking bill as a beacon of hope. The Pennsylvania subdivision of CEASE – Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects – believes the new bill represents a potential life-saver. In response to this, Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects co-lead, Jen Rubolino, expressed her gratitude to Rep. Frankel, adding that the bill could potentially help them avoid the dangerous repercussions of secondhand smoke including heart complications, asthma, and cancer.

Casino smoking is still prevalent in nearby Atlantic City and West Virginia, whereas the four states bordering Pennsylvania – Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Delaware – enforce a full indoor smoking ban. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking & Health established in February that even the smoke-free sections within casinos still harbor higher levels of particulate matter, reaffirming the need for comprehensive smoking prohibition in indoor areas.