Workers Testify at Hearing on S438 to Close the Casino Smoking Loophole and Protect the Health of Workers
May 26, 2023 | Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Providence, RI— Casino workers, labor leaders, elected officials and advocates for smokefree casinos rallied ahead of a hearing yesterday where the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Finance considered legislation to close the casino smoking loophole. Members of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE), Dealers Union Local 711, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and public health advocates provided testimony at the hearing in support of S438, legislation to end indoor smoking in Rhode Island casinos and protect the health of workers.
“I’ve never smoked a day in my life but I have developed smoker’s cough. I get up every morning and I’m coughing, tired, and fatigued. That’s just not acceptable,” said Bill DelSanto, a table games dealer and member of CEASE. “We know the connection between secondhand smoke and death. And my life, unfortunately, has been affected by it. I’m hoping that lawmakers hear this and they vote to make casinos smokefree so we can be safe.”
“Casinos in our surrounding region are all smokefree indoors and Rhode Island is the last holdout,” said Matthew Dunham, president of Dealers Union Local 711. “Casino workers deserve the same workplace protections as every other worker in the state. There is no other resolution but for lawmakers to pass these bills to close the casino smoking loophole.”
“Casino workers for two years had clean, smokefree air in their workplace. Now we’re hearing stories of workers getting sick and really suffering from having to breathe smoke every day at work,” said Rep. Teresa Tanzi. “Are casino workers less valuable than every other employee in our state? We ban outdoor smoking at parks and beaches in our state and yet we allow casinos to do this to our employees. The state should not be profiting off of the health of casino workers. It’s absolutely unfathomable, it’s inappropriate and it has to stop.”
“I’m a former smoker and over time we have learned more about the health effects that harmed folks who weren’t smoking but had to live with us, back in the day, smoking inside offices and restaurants,” said Senator Mark McKenny. “Restaurants complained when we first considered clean air legislation and they survived just fine. When we hear gaming facilities with similar complaints, we know they’re going to do just fine. It’s time we should make the casinos smokefree. These people deserve clean air.”
“Casinos are clinging to antiquated business practices and poisoning their frontline workers while catering to a shrinking smoking population,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights during her testimony before the committee. “This bill is not about smoking vs nonsmoking. This is about fairness and worker health and safety. It’s not every day that lawmakers have the opportunity to pass legislation that can so tangibly improve the lives of thousands of people. S438 is one of those bills.”
S438, legislation to get rid of smoking inside casinos, was introduced this year by Senators V. Susan Sosnowski, Meghan Kallman, Linda Ujifusa, Frank Lombardi, Pamela Lauria, Mark McKenney, Tiara Mack, John Burke, Bridget Valverde and Sam Zurier. The House Committee on Finance last month held a hearing on companion bill H5237 which would remove the exemption for casinos and gaming facilities from the state’s smokefree workplace law.
Contrary to recent claims by a lobbyist for Bally’s, ventilation systems are not the answer, according to the engineers who design such systems and collectively make up the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
“[Ventilation systems] are not effective against secondhand smoke” and “can reduce only odor and discomfort, but cannot eliminate exposure,” they wrote to Rhode Island lawmakers last month. “There is no currently available or reasonably anticipated ventilation or air-cleaning system that can adequately control or significantly reduce the health risks of [environmental tobacco smoke] to an acceptable level.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also makes clear that “ventilation does not effectively protect people who don’t smoke from secondhand smoke.”
Rhode Island casino workers last year launched a CEASE chapter to call on lawmakers to protect their health and close the casino smoking loophole.
ABOUT AMERICANS FOR NONSMOKERS’ RIGHTS
ANR Foundation’s sister organization, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) is a member-supported, non-profit advocacy group that has been working for over 45 years, since 1976, to protect everyone’s right to breathe nontoxic air in workplaces and public places, from offices and airplanes to restaurants, bars, and casinos. ANR has continuously shined a light on the tobacco industry’s interference with sound and life-saving public health measures and successfully protected 61% of the population with local or statewide smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws. ANR aims to close gaps in smokefree protections for workers in all workplaces, including bars, music venues, casinos, and hotels. For more information, please visit https://nonsmokersrights.org and https://smokefreecasinos.org.