Make Iowa Casinos Smoke-Free

Make Iowa Casinos Smoke-Free

Smoking affects every Iowan.  Tobacco-related diseases remain Iowa’s most preventable cause of death.  Tobacco use is the leading cause of cancer death in Iowa - responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths.  An estimated 5,100 Iowans die from tobacco-related illnesses annually – 1,770 from lung cancer alone.  Each year, the state spends $1.2 billion on health care costs for tobacco-related illnesses.  These health and economic costs are shared by every Iowan, regardless of whether they smoke.

The facts about secondhand smoke are clear, convincing and overwhelming.  Hundreds of studies and dozens of distinguished scientific and medical organizations have concluded that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard that causes lung cancer, heart disease and serious respiratory illness in nonsmokers.  In 2006, the Surgeon General confirmed that no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is safe.

Casino workers are at increased risk.  A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found casino workers are exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke at work.  In addition, urinary testing of workers after their shifts indicated cancer causing toxins in secondhand smoke were absorbed into workers' bodies.  The report also confirmed that ventilation systems cannot remove health risks.

We all have the right to breathe clean air, free from secondhand smoke.  Protecting our right to breathe clean air is a basic health and safety issue and it should be no more optional than other laws that ensure our food, water and public facilities are safe.  The Surgeon General has concluded that eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.  Casino workers deserve a safe place to work just like everyone else.

Iowa's Smoke-Free Air Act is already seeing results.  A recent study examined the number of monthly hospitalizations between July 2005 and June 2009 for cardiovascular disease caused or made worse by smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke.  This study found that Iowa's Smoke-Free Air Act is already producing public health benefits.  Researchers found a 24% reduction in hospital admissions due to coronary heart disease in the year after that law was passed compared with the previous three years.  Hospital admissions due to heart attacks and strokes were also down during this same period.

ACS CAN supports legislation to remove the exemption for casino floors from Iowa's Smoke-Free Air Act.  This legislation will eliminate secondhand smoke in casinos, protect the health of casino workers and patrons, and level the playing field for all Iowa hospitality businesses.