Pennsylvania is once again considering a move to end indoor smoking in its commercial casinos. Allegheny County Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel has introduced the "Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act," or House Bill 1657, aimed at closing the smoking exemption in the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 for casinos and other facilities.
This legislation comes after a period during the COVID-19 pandemic when mask mandates provided temporary relief from indoor smoking. However, once these mandates were lifted, most casinos reverted to allowing smoking indoors.
The bill not only targets casinos but also impacts several other venues, including private clubs, home daycare centers, hotels, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) bars, and bars that do not serve food or have less than 15% of their sales from food.
The PA Coalition, made up of health experts and advocates from the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement:
“We thank Representative Frankel for his tireless commitment to ending indoor smoking in public places and protecting workers from being exposed to the life-threatening dangers of secondhand smoke.
"State lawmakers across the country are considering similar legislation to close the casino smoking loophole and we encourage the Keystone State to swiftly pass HB 1657. No one should be forced to choose between their health and their paycheck.”
They also cite data suggesting that casinos without indoor smoking not only protect health but also perform well financially by attracting guests who prefer a smoke-free environment.
Representative Frankel has outlined the legislative process for the bill, which includes circulating the proposed legislation among colleagues, introduction in the House with referral to a committee, committee review, and a vote on the House floor. The bill would then proceed to the Senate for similar steps before becoming law.
Frankel has expressed confidence in the bill's passage, noting that the argument for protecting the health of casino employees while ensuring good-paying jobs resonates with many colleagues.
As of now, only two casino locations in Pennsylvania remain smoke-free, both belonging to Parx Casino. Parx has reported strong financial performance despite its smoke-free policy.
The debate over indoor smoking in casinos is part of a broader national trend toward smoke-free environments. Many casinos nationwide, including tribal gaming venues and some commercial casinos, have already implemented smoke-free policies.