Published on: February 2, 2024 at 03:15 pm.
Last updated on: February 1, 2024 at 03:47 h.
Kansas casino smoking could soon be extinguished if a bipartisan group of state lawmakers can achieve their goal.
House Bill 2622 was introduced this week by Reps. Owen Donohue (R-Shawnee), David Buehler (R-Lansing), Sidney Carlin (D-Manhattan), Ford Carr (D-Wichita), and Dennis Heiberger (D-Mo. Lawrence). . The legislation seeks to amend the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act passed in 2010.
The state’s tobacco law prohibits indoor smoking in most workplaces, including offices, restaurants, bars and common areas in residential buildings. However, the law provided an exception for the state’s four commercial casinos.
Boot Hill, Kansas Star, Hollywood and Kansas Crossing casinos can allow indoor cigarette and cigar smoking anywhere on their gaming floors, although each casino has designated areas that are presumed to be smoke-free. Smoking opponents say casino ventilation systems do not protect people and workers from dangerous secondhand smoke.
HB 2622 would force the four casinos to eliminate indoor smoking in their gaming venues.
Casino workers joy
CEASE, Casino Employees Against the Effects of Smoking, is a grassroots coalition of casino workers that originated in Atlantic City. The organization was formed after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) allowed indoor casino smoking to return to Atlantic City’s nine casinos in July 2021 after ordering them to stop smoking amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEASE has since expanded to include other states where smoking in casinos still exists. CEASE has chapters in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Kansas. CEASE Kansas Chapter celebrated the introduction of HB 2622.
“For too long, casino workers like me have had to endure the dangerous conditions of secondhand smoke, all in the name of a paycheck,” said Joe Hafley, a Kansas CEASE commander who works as a security officer at the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway. “It’s not just about cards, slots and profits – this bill is a beacon of hope for the hard-working people in our industry, signaling that our health and well-being matter.”
Hafley added that casino workers should not “have to choose between our health and our paycheck,” a slogan often used by CEASE members.
HB 2622 was referred to the House Committee on Health and Human Services for initial review. The legislation proposes eye-catching language from the Interior Cleanliness Act. The bill would erase the exemption for “a gaming floor at a lottery gaming facility or racetrack gaming facility.”
Casinos are supposed to fight the bill. Gaming interests continue to argue that indoor smoking is critical to the health of their gambling and table gaming operations. Asking a smoker to go outside interrupts his or her gaming and is thought to prompt some smokers to end their casino visits when the urge to light up a cigarette comes.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 11.5% of the adult population currently smokes. A smoker is defined as someone who smokes a cigarette or cigar at least several times a week. Kansas’ smoking rate is much higher than the national average at an estimated 16%.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says smoking rates are higher among poor and low-income families. Approximately 31% of adults who earn less than $25,000 a year smoke, and 20% of those who earn $25,000 to $50,000 do. Less than 13% of those earning more than $50,000 are regularly active.