Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General, Casino Employees, Antismoking Groups Call For Total Smoking Ban At Indian Casinos

February 9, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today called for a total ban on smoking in all areas of the state's two Indian casinos by October 2011 under legislation he has proposed at the General Assembly.

Casino employees and antismoking advocates Match Coalition and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids joined Blumenthal in calling for an eventual total smoking prohibition at the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.

Blumenthal said, "Our common goal is a complete ban on smoking because casinos shouldn't be gambling with public health. Tribal sovereignty deserves respect, but it must yield to health or safety as a priority. The casinos are dealing workers and visitors a losing hand on cancer and tobacco addiction."

Blumenthal's legislative proposal would impose a total smoking ban by October 2011 in all areas of the casino through a three-step phase in. All non-gaming areas and 20 percent of gaming areas would be smoke-free by October 2009, increasing to 50 percent in October 2010 and 100 percent a year later. Blumenthal's proposal would permit the same incremental ban to be implemented by compact or tribal law.

Blumenthal added, "The casinos must be smoke-free -- no ifs, ands or butts. The ban must be total, even if the battle is tough. Short-term fixes and gimmicks like ventilation systems and segregated smoking areas simply prolong the problem. Second-hand smoke cannot be made safe. There is no safe way to smoke.

"The casinos owe workers and patrons better odds against disease and addiction. Treating people right means a complete ban. Studies show that second-hand smoke kills relentlessly and ruthlessly.

"An incremental ban, stopping all smoking by 2011, is a reasonable, feasible solution. I respect that casinos are grappling with a tough economy and competition, which is why a phased ban makes sense, but the casinos cannot play with a stacked deck on smoking. I am prepared to discuss the details, but the endgame is nonnegotiable: a complete ban cannot be left to chance," Blumenthal said.

Dave Barry, a Foxwoods dealer for 17 years, said, "Smoke gets blown in our faces 24/7, 365 days a year. We get sicker and sicker with every day of inaction. The Senate acted last year, and now we need the House and the Governor to support 100% smoke-free casinos."

Dr. Pat Checko, MATCH Coalition chair, an epidemiologist and former health director, noted that a special report on secondhand smoke in casinos found that "casino workers in so-called 'well-ventilated' casinos had metabolized nicotine levels 300 to 600% higher than those in other smoking workplaces during a work shift. There is in fact NO SAFE LEVEL of ETS, and even sophisticated ventilation systems are ineffective in protecting both patrons and employees, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and ASHRAE, the preeminent U.S. standard setting body on ventilation systems. That is why MATCH opposed ventilation as a solution in 2003 and continues to do so."

The Match Coalition consists of antismoking organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association.

Kevin O'Flaherty of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said, "Proposals with smoking sections, non-smoking sections and ventilation are all steps in the wrong direction. Laws from 20 years ago had these types of provisions, but they have long since been abandoned. Twenty-four states have 100% smoke-free workplace laws that cover all workers and at least 13 of those cover all gaming areas. If the state of Connecticut, the Mohegans, and the Mashantucket Pequots are serious about protecting the health of their workers, they'll eliminate the carcinogens from the entire casino floor and make sure all casino employees are protected."