It’s time to stop gambling with people’s health

By Rex Archer, MD, M.P.H., Director of Health of Kansas City Health Department

Smoke-free casino rallySmoke-free casinos across the country are proving to be profitable as well as attractive to a broader base of casino guests, while also protecting the health of patrons and employees.

Gaming operations bring jobs and revenue to our communities. We protect most workers with a clean indoor law. So, why should our Kansas City casino workers continue to work in smoky environments?

Dedicated volunteers are starting the smoke-free casinos conversation with area casino operations in the hopes that they will transition to 100 percent smoke-free indoor gaming. The expectation of smoke-free gaming is already here. The Metropolitan Healthy Communities Coalition received an Americans For Non-Smoker’s Rights rapid response grant to create a “Voices” campaign. This campaign interviewed around 1,000 casino patrons regarding the topic of smoke-free casinos.

Here is an excerpt of one of the interviews conducted.

“I think we should not have smoking in the casinos because it’s bad for our health, and bad for workers who are there and the people who want to go there. Sometimes when you have people out of town, you want to do something different but you want to take them there, but don’t because of the smoke. We were going to have a wedding rehearsal and we looked at one of the big rooms to have it. The minute we walked in the hallway, it was all smelly. We walked right out and didn’t reserve that place.” — Sandra B., Kansas City, Mo.

The consumer expectation for smoke-free gaming is based largely on health concerns. An air quality sampling study was funded by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City in June 2011. Air quality testing was conducted in five area casinos and found unhealthy levels of air caused by secondhand smoke. The study can be found on

Local efforts on smoke-free casinos culminated in a large “Smoke-free Casino” rally at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health held here in Kansas City in August 2012. The 2,000 national conference participants were asked to “Go All In, Bet on Smoke-free Casinos.” Rally participants were treated to an encouraging message from former casino worker JoAnne Chaney, and a touching YouTube video from former casino worker Sheryl Wilkins, who had just lost her battle with cancer.

The next step is to bring the “Voices” campaign to a larger audience. Advocates plan to have the “Voices” messages playing on Kansas City bus lines, and create CDs to give to local elected officials. For your opportunity to listen to the campaign, see the air quality report and for more information about smoke-free casinos in Kansas City go to

It’s time to stop gambling with people’s health.

Smoke-free environments is still competing Health Madness' Tobacco Division. Voting in round 2 is open until 1 p.m., March 24. Don’t forget to tell others to vote!


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at



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