I was delighted to learn that Republican state senators Stewart Greenleaf and Mario Scavello have proposed eliminating the ludicrous exemption in the Clean Indoor Act which enables casinos to allow smoking throughout as much as 50 percent of their gambling floors, though the reasonable person knows that the 50 percent rule is a farce as smoke filters throughout the entire casino.
I value my heard-earned money too much to gamble and lose it, but I visit and enjoy state casino restaurants when I have the opportunity. Without exception, diners must travel through smoke-filled areas to reach their destinations. As miserable as it is for me and other non-smoking customers inside a casino, it is much worse for the hapless casino employee who must choose between a good job or protecting their health. That is a choice which no one should have to make. If we have a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to facilitate employee safety, should we not take the most basic steps to ensure that workers are not forced to be exposed to known carcinogens?
Senators Greenleaf and Scavello will have a battle on their hands. The casinos are money-wielding and powerful. That is how they were able to secure an inequitable and illogical advantage for themselves in the first place. They know that the addictive behavior of gambling goes hand in hand with the ingestion of nicotine and consumption of alcohol, and will not stand idly by if the ability to smoke in a casino is endangered. They will jump up and down and will threaten to sue the commonwealth, arguing that they would not have entered the state’s casino business had they known smoking would be prohibited. The sponsors of the bill must not allow themselves to be intimidated, and I am confident that these veterans will not be cowed.
Twenty enlightened states, including neighboring Ohio, ban smoking at their casinos. Will sponsors of the Pennsylvania bill be able to convince a majority of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do what is right for the public at large? That is often a tall order in a General Assembly where many members continue to demonstrate that it delivers the finest government money can buy.
My state representative, John Maher, voted against the Clean Indoor Act, preferring to allow individuals to continue smoking in restaurants and other workplaces. How many Pennsylvanians would like to go back to those days? To my knowledge, Rep. Maher has never expressed regret or apology for voting against public health and for the self-absorbed addict. How can he be expected to vote on any measure to force casinos to look out for the non-smoking employee and patron?
Oren M. Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair