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Family-friendly casino areas in Washoe County contain unsafe levels of second-hand smoke, study reveals

Photo by Lee Thomas on Unsplash
Photo by Lee Thomas on Unsplash

Unsafe levels were found regardless of size or ventilation system in the facility.

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Second-hand smoke in indoor casino areas is up to 18 times more harmful than outdoor levels, according to a University of Nevada, Reno study published last month in the Environmental Analysis Health and Toxicology Journal.

According to the study led by associate professor Eric Crosbie, all indoor casino locations measured unsafe levels of second-hand smoke, even with only a small proportion of smokers.

This includes casino areas designated as non-smoking such as arcades and restaurants.

Crosbie and his team visited 14 casinos throughout Washoe County.

“No matter what the facility contained, whether it was big or small, whether it was new or old, whether it had the most advanced ventilation systems, we still saw high levels of bad air quality, secondhand smoke that was penetrating all throughout these casinos,” Crosbie said.

The research also found that ventilation systems do not work in preventing unsafe levels of second-hand smoke from drifting to areas where smoking is not allowed.

Crosbie and his team measured the amount of particulate matter in the air at each casino and found that the levels were "unhealthy for sensitive groups," which includes people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and people with diabetes.

The study calls for policy changes to protect minors, casino employees and other vulnerable populations exposed to unhealthy air during a casino visit.

“What this new data shows is that, what about the employee that's working at the arcade? What about the young child that's coming in to play laser tag? How much are they being exposed that we don't know about?” he said.

This is a health inequity issue, said Andrea Corral, grassroots coordinator for Smoke Free Truckee Meadows.

“The people who are employed by the casinos are usually people of color. Hispanics, African Americans who are in these areas, eight hours a day, five days a week,” Corral said.

Crosbie recommends that Nevada policymakers amend the Nevada Clean Indoor Act and prohibit smoking in all public places, including casinos and bars statewide.

“The only way to eliminate involuntary exposure is to prohibit smoking in all indoor areas,” Crosbie said.

The study was done through a partnership between the School of Public Health at UNR and Northern Nevada Public Health.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.