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Smoke-Free Louisiana Coalition Says Delaying Smoke-free Ordinance Means Council Believes Gaming Workers are Less Valuable than Any Other Louisiana Employees; Puts Gaming Profit Over Public Health

Jul. 17, 2020

Shreveport, LA- July 14, 2020- An ordinance that would have offered smoke-free protections for all Shreveport gaming workers has been delayed by more than a year when the Shreveport Council voted 4-2 to exempt those workers from the recently passed smoke-free ordinance. The plan, a comprehensive policy to make all workplaces smoke-free, including gaming facilities, would have taken effect on August 8, 2020, but an amendment exempting local gaming facilities delays their compliance until August of 2021.
“Today Mayor Perkins said COVID-19 is ‘the biggest public safety crisis that Shreveport has seen,’ yet the Council voted to allow smoking in casinos where patrons will be allowed to remove their masks and blow harmful secondhand smoke into the air. Wearing a mask protects others from respiratory droplets from potentially ill patrons. Removing the mask puts others at risk for contracting the virus. Not to mention, secondhand smoke exposure can damage the cardiovascular system and may make you more susceptible to coronavirus complications,” says Ashley Hebert, Smoke-Free Louisiana Coalition spokesperson.

“Whether you’re a teacher, bartender, or card dealer, no employee in Shreveport should have to be exposed to deadly secondhand smoke every second of their work shift. We are disappointed the City Council reversed course and delayed implementation of this life-saving ordinance that would help address many of the health equity challenges facing the Shreveport community,” she adds.

“It is quite unbelievable that this council would determine that the life of workers in gaming facilities is less valuable than a bar worker, or, for that matter, any other employee in the city,” says Tonia Moore, Director, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL). This delay means thousands of employees will continue to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke on the job. No one should put their health on hold for a year while earning a paycheck. That is what the city council voted to do by extending implementation for gaming venues only,” she adds.

The current Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act (Act 851), established in January 2007, prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces, including all restaurants with or without attached bars; it did not include bars and gaming facilities. The Council voted 5-2 last month to adopt a comprehensive ordinance that was to have taken effect 60 days after passage of that ordinance. However, the vote today delays that implementation.

The coalition says that each day Louisiana delays in establishing smoke-free gaming facilities adds to our state’s healthcare costs, costs employers’ productivity, and results in loss of income from potential visitors to our state. Data shows thousands of Louisianians die from smoking-related causes yearly and smoking drains Louisiana of almost $1.89 billion in health care costs every year.

There are 29 cities and municipalities in Louisiana that have already enacted comprehensive smoke-free policies including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, three of the state’s largest and most visited cities.

“While the choice to smoke is a personal one, no one has a ‘right’ to actively harm another person against his or her will. Secondhand smoke exposure is a clear issue of public health, and now that everyone is acutely aware of public health and safety issues, we believe this is the perfect time to protect all workers,” said Raegan Carter, a consultant with Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, serious respiratory illnesses, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection. The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.

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The Smoke-free Louisiana Campaign Coalition is a group of organizations that supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use and exposure to harmful secondhand smoke, including spearheading the effort to protect all employees, musicians, and entertainers in bars and gaming facilities from secondhand smoke. It is composed of the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL), The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), The American Lung Association in Louisiana, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, The Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, and numerous other local and national organizations. For more information visit http://makingakilling.la/