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Do Nevadans support smoke-free casinos? New poll gives insight

Updated April 24, 2024 - 10:36 am

Almost 60 percent of Nevada voters said they would support banning smoking in casinos, according to a new poll from a state clean air advocacy group.

Fifty-eight percent of voters surveyed said they would support a potential law that made all workplaces in Nevada, including casinos, completely smoke free while indoors, the poll commissioned by the Nevada Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Coalition found. Meanwhile, 39 percent opposed such a law.

Nevada voters also said they viewed elected officials who voted for an indoor smoking ban more favorably, 55 percent to 35 percent, according to the poll released Tuesday.

Public health and worker advocates say the poll is a first step toward changing the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which exempts casinos and stand-alone bars from clean air regulations, or implementing a ban through other legislation. The coalition, made up of about 40 public health, rural services and medical groups, said it was impressed with how many respondents were not persuaded by the argument that a smoking ban would hurt casinos economically. Results show 43 percent were unconvinced and 38 percent were convinced that it would have a negative impact.

“We know even if we’ll be outspent by the opposition, Nevada voters would still continue to support it,” Nicole Chacon, manager at Nevada Tobacco Control and Smoke-free Coalition, said.

The Nevada Resort Association declined to comment because it had not seen the poll.

Polling firm Normington Petts polled 800 registered Nevada voters in January through live interviews, landlines, mobile and text-to-web surveys, the methodology states. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.

United Auto Workers, representing about 3,000 casino workers at MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts and other properties, is also weighing in. The UAW is behind a lawsuit filed on April 5 to close the loophole in Atlantic City and the Las Vegas local supports the smoke-free coalition’s work.

“I have been a dealer for 30 years, and in that time, I’ve seen a lot of the health of the long-term dealers decline – asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, breathing issues,” said Paula Larson-Schusster, UAW Local 3555 president and a dealer at the Flamingo. “A lot of people’s health situations during the three months (of COVID-19-related casino closures) got better. But unfortunately, that only lasted for a short time and they allowed smoking again.”

A University of Nevada, Reno study released Wednesday found secondhand smoke in indoor casino areas is up to 18 times more harmful than outdoor levels, including in family-friendly areas like restaurants and arcades.

Asked whether UAW’s lawsuit in New Jersey was inspiring, Larson-Schusster said the UAW is exploring multiple ways to get non-smoking legislation in front of decision makers.

“I’m willing to use any tool in the toolbox that will get me to that point,” Larson-Schusster said.

Culinary Local 226 officials were not involved with the polling. Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said the union representing most Strip hospitality workers is paying close attention to the Atlantic City effort. But he noted the political challenge it would be to get the loophole closed here.

“You can see the big fight we had over daily room cleaning and even Democrats caved and followed the company’s lead on daily room cleaning,” Pappageorge said. “It’s some of the same issues.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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