Pennsylvania is revisiting the prospect of prohibiting indoor smoking in its commercial casinos. Representative Dan Frankel of Allegheny County, a Democrat, has introduced House Bill 1657, also known as the “Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act.” The bill aims to eliminate the smoking exemption in the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008, which currently allows smoking in casinos and other designated facilities.
This legislative move follows a period during the COVID-19 pandemic when mask mandates temporarily curbed indoor smoking. However, once these mandates were lifted, most casinos reverted to permitting indoor smoking.
The proposed legislation targets not only casinos but also several other venues, including private clubs, home daycare centers, hotels, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) bars, and bars that do not serve food or generate less than 15% of their sales from food.
The PA Coalition, comprising health experts and advocates from organizations such as Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, expressed their support for the bill.
They emphasized the importance of protecting workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke and urged swift passage of HB 1657, highlighting that no one should have to compromise their health for their livelihood. The coalition cited data indicating that casinos without indoor smoking not only safeguard health but also perform well financially by attracting patrons who prefer a smoke-free environment.
Representative Frankel outlined the legislative process for the bill, which involves circulating the proposed legislation among colleagues, introducing it in the House with committee referral, committee review, a House floor vote, and subsequent Senate steps before becoming law.
Frankel expressed confidence in the bill’s passage, underscoring that the argument for safeguarding casino employees’ health while supporting well-paying jobs resonates with many colleagues. Presently, only two casino locations in Pennsylvania maintain smoke-free policies, both belonging to Parx Casino. Parx has reported strong financial performance despite its smoke-free stance.
The debate surrounding indoor smoking in casinos aligns with the broader national trend toward smoke-free environments. Many casinos across the United States, including tribal gaming venues and select commercial casinos, have already implemented smoke-free policies.
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