New Bill Submitted To End Smoking In Pennsylvania Casinos

Written By J.R. Duren on September 19, 2023

Pennsylvania gamblers hoping for a breath of fresh air may finally get their wish.

This week, Rep. Dan Frankel submitted a bill, HB 1657, to the Pennsylvania Assembly that would end smoking inside the state’s 18 brick-and-mortar casinos and other facilities protected by a loophole in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008.

Frankel noted the bill would go before the House Health Committee this month. The bill’s official record shows it went to the committee on the 6th. However, the bill hasn’t seen a vote yet.

Advocates for smoke-free PA casinos join Frankel’s push to clear the air

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR), a nonprofit that educates people on the dangers of secondhand smoke and youth smoking, voiced its support for smoke-free PA casinos and HB 1657.

The ANR website noted that casinos have healthier employees and happier customers when indoor smoking is banned:

“The data shows that casinos without indoor smoking not only protect health, they also perform better because they appeal to the vast majority of guests who prefer a smoke-free environment…and we encourage the Keystone State to swiftly pass HB 1657.”

Studies reveal dangers of casino smoke

Not everyone who walks through a casino’s entrance smokes while inside. However, the American Cancer Society (ACS) noted that, smoking or not, everyone who enters a casino that allows smoking is at risk:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace increases the chance of employees getting lung cancer
  • Nicotine levels in casinos and similar places are considerably higher than what’s found in offices, homes, and restaurants
  • Smoke particles are 12 times higher inside casinos than outside
  • Casino customers have been found to have “significantly elevated levels” of cancer-causing agents in their lungs after a four-hour casino visit
  • Smoke-free policies have proven to decrease employees’ long-term risk of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer

The ANR pointed out that casinos with indoor smoking have secondhand smoke levels that are 5.4 times higher than casinos without indoor smoking.

Additionally, nonsmoking areas in casinos that allow smoking have secondhand smoke levels that are 72% higher than casinos without smoking.

And, earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study about secondhand smoke in Las Vegas casinos unequivocally pushed for indoor smoking bans. The study concluded:

“Despite robust evidence about the harms of SHS, tens of thousands of casino employees and tens of millions of tourists are exposed to high levels of SHS in Las Vegas casinos annually. The only way to protect people from SHS exposure is to prohibit smoking in all indoor areas.”

Frankel and ANR banking on a general distaste for smoking

Working in Frankel’s favor is that the majority of people in America prefer nonsmoking public spaces. The ACS noted that gamblers in multiple states prefer smoke-free casinos.

For example, 85% of casino patrons in California prefer smoke-free facilities. Additionally, only 1 in 9 people in the United States smoke now, which is an all-time low, according to the CDC.

In a PA House of Representatives press release Frankel said about the new bill:

“I have reintroduced my legislation to close the remaining loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act, banning smoking in all workplaces. Nobody should have to choose between their health and their ability to provide for themselves and their families.”

Photo by Matt Rourke / AP Photo; illustrated by PlayUSA
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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