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Big mistake to allow smoking in state casinos

Published: Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 1:15 a.m. CDT

Illinois is a smoke-free state, meaning smoking is not allowed in public places, including casinos. Unfortunately, earlier this week, an Illinois House of Representatives committee quietly rushed through House Bill 1846, which would allow smoking in casinos by exempting them from our smoke-free law.

If Illinois begins to exempt some public places from the smoke-free law, where do we draw the line?

Doesn’t every Illinois worker deserve to work in a safe and healthy environment, free of toxins such as secondhand smoke?

What about the nonsmokers who would like to enjoy a night at the casino?

The American Heart Association strongly opposes this cynical attack by the gaming industry on a popular and effective public health measure. The casinos are pleading poverty, but while it has yet to be proved that the smoke-free laws have any significant impact on a casino’s bottom line, there is no question that secondhand smoke is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In fact, even a few minutes in a smoky environment can cause a heart attack.

Please ask your state representative to “double down” on your health by voting “no” on House Bill 1846. It is time for the casino industry to consider the health of its workers and patrons and to fold its hand. Illinois’ casino workers and patrons are best served if we keep our smoke-free law intact.

Note to readers – Kathleen L. Grady is an associate professor at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, and administrative director for the Center for Heart Failure, Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, Division of Cardiac Surgery.

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