Workers speak! Why casinos need clean air!

Sept. 28, 2017

Earning a paycheck shouldn't put your health at risk, said two former casino workers speaking in Mesquite.

Treva Copeland and Sandi Sorenson shared their experiences with local supports for clean indoor air in all public spaces during a public dinner held at Wedgie's Sports Bar, a smokefree local business.

Copeland (below), a former blackjack dealer, talked about her experiences working in Colorado casinos before and after they went smokefree.

"The difference in my health was like night and day," she said. Before the casinos went smokefree, Copeland had chronic sinus infections and bronchitis. "At the end of my shift, my lungs hurt and burned. I would get home and have a shower to get the smoke off of me, but I couldn't get the smoke out of my lungs."

Treva Copeland

"People resist change, but once time passes, it becomes a way of life," she added. "Our casinos are thriving and the people don't even give it a thought anymore."

Sandi Sorensen (below) said her lungs paid a price, too. Before she moved to Mesquite, she worked as a casino dealer in Las Vegas. "The smoke always found its way to my eyes and nose," she said. "Sometimes my eyes would burn so much I could hardly finish work."

While she hasn't developed any major health issues, Sorenson said it's still hard for her to breathe around smoke. "That's why I don't go to casinos anymore. Many other people avoid them for the same reason."

"I feel bad for the workers who put their health on the line for a paycheck," Sorenson said. "It's good work and fun, but it shouldn't be dangerous."

The event at Wedgies also included music by local performer Glenniz Jones.

Photos by Tina Wiley.

Move forward, Mesquite: Ban indoor smoking

Jennifer Hammond-Moore, In My Opinion October 23, 2016

Have you ever chosen to take a job to provide for your family even though it was dangerous to your health?

That is what I did in 2011. I worked for one of the casinos in Mesquite to support my children after my husband passed. I would come home after spending more than 10 hours a day in the smoke-filled environment. My children didn’t even want to hug me when I returned home due to the smell on my clothes; not to mention the medications I had to take for asthma and smoke allergies while I worked there.

Two and a half years have passed since I worked there, but now I fear for my daughter and friends who still work in the casinos.

I was not surprised to read the opinion presented by Cindi Delaney regarding the proposed smoke-free ordinance. As an elected official, she is playing into the pockets of our small-town “big money” special interests. But, times they are a changin’ and it's time that the city council starts valuing health over special interests.

Ms. Delaney wrote that she agrees secondhand smoke is bad for us. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), secondhand smoke causes more than 34,000 heart disease deaths and more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30 percent.

Not only is it bad, Ms. Delaney, but it is killing the workers and patrons that you are supposed to be advocating for.

Regarding the research, Ms. Delaney cited from the Illinois Casino Gaming Association that “the smoking ban was responsible for a 19 percent decline in revenue during its first year.”

If you look at economic reports from casinos across the nation and also recall the December 2008 closing of the Oasis in Mesquite, what was it that happened that year?

Oh yeah, the Great Recession of 2008. Of course, the numbers would have been down, just as they were down at every casino across the nation that still allowed smoking, like every casino in Las Vegas. It was merely coincidental that Illinois’ smoke-free ordinance went into effect at the same time that our entire global economy tanked. Discretionary spending is used for personal goods rather than gambling during times of economic recession.

New Orleans was another city to go smoke-free in April 2015. They had a two month slight decline in revenue; 16 percent in May and 31 percent in June but rose 26 percent in July, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Sept. 26, 2015.

Other states to see revenue increase after implementing smoking bans are Ohio (Dayton Daily News, 5/5/15) and Maryland (Baltimore Sun, 3/4/16). In fact, there are more than 800 casinos and gambling venues in more than 20 states that are smoke-free. Not to mention, multiple Nevada casino operators are investing in and building billion-dollar casinos in states with comprehensive smoke-free laws already in place.

If they know they can make it in other states, why do we settle for less in Nevada?

The fact is, smoking nationwide is down to 15 percent, according to the CDC! YES, that is correct! Eighty-five percent of people DO NOT SMOKE!

On the same note, “millennials are spending more money on the casino table games and less on slots.” (Washington Post, 6-7-15) The casinos need to be progressive to provide for this next generation of gamblers. They are more interested in the entertainment factors of the destination rather than sitting at slot machines.

Greg Lee has seen this trend and is addressing it already with the Rising Star. He is providing a service that will cater to the athletes and outdoor enthusiasts that will continue to make Mesquite a destination for families.

The scare tactics provided by Ms. Delaney, that several hundred people will lose their jobs, is a tried and true way for elected officials and gaming interests to change the subject so that they don’t have to address the health of workers.

What Mesquite residents should be asking is: WHY ISN’T THE MESQUITE CITY COUNCIL WILLING TO PROTECT ITS CITIZENS? What can the council do to increase jobs in the area and promote Mesquite as a safe, clean, and smoke-free resort destination? Why can’t they work with the casinos to provide outdoor smoking areas for those who do smoke, specifically outside of the work areas?

That would be a win, win for everyone! Such an easy solution and one that’s been highly successful in smoke-free states like Ohio and Colorado!

One death from working in a smoking environment should be too many and we already have experienced that with the death of former Senior Ms. Mesquite Alecia Sibio. She worked in casinos her entire adult life and passed from complications of cancer just last year.

What is the value of a life?  It’s time for all of us to ask the city council that question during this election year. My vote is for the health and protection of all workers!

Jennifer Hammond-Moore lives in Mesquite.


Clean indoor air coalition stages silent rally at city council meeting

by , November 10, 2016

The Mesquite City Council chambers boasted more color than usual during Wednesday’s meeting.

About 70 members of the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air, all wearing light blue T-shirts, sat through the entire meeting as part of a silent rally to raise awareness for their cause.

Coalition member Mayo Vitela said the idea was brought up to him by his wife.

“It was essentially my wife’s idea and we presented it to see how it would go. It would be good for us to have a silent rally, just to let the city council know we’re going to be around, we’re going to stick to this until we can get something done,” Vitela said.

Coincidentally, the silent rally came during the same meeting in which Mayor Al Litman proclaimed Nov. 16 as “Ted and Doris Lee Day” in Mesquite. The Lee family founded the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, and has been involved with a number of charitable activities in the city over the years.

“It isn’t often we have families or individuals who make contributions to Mesquite in the fashion that these individuals have, and have for so many years within our city,” Litman said.

The coalition for clean indoor air has met resistance from the casino industry in Mesquite.

Vitela said the coalition was unaware that the Lee family would be present during the meeting, and said there is no personal animosity toward them.

“We had no idea that the Lee family was being honored,” Vitela said. “It was a surprise, I think it certainly added to the message.”

“We hold nothing against Mr. Lee,” Vitela said. “I’m sure he’s a pretty nice guy.”

Vitela said the coalition plans to remain active in trying to bring awareness to the issue.

“It looked to me like the mayor and council people were surprised to see us in there. This time it was as silent rally maybe in the future this won’t be a silent rally,” he said.

Burn permits

The city council heard a lengthy discussion surrounding the city’s issuance of burn permits. The issue was brought up at the Oct. 11 meeting by a citizen who was concerned the city was no longer issuing burn permits.

“What I discovered is the primary issue here is that Air Quality and the Fire Department work in conjunction on each other’s permits,” City Attorney Bob Sweetin said.

The Council encouraged the fire department to deal only with issuing burn permits, while leaving the onus on the person seeking to burn to acquire the permit from the Department of Air Quality. Anyone found to be without the necessary permits can be subject to a $10,000 fine.

“I would like to see us explore the option where they come to the fire department, you guys check it out, you’re willing to grant the permit based on whatever conditions you see are necessary, then they go deal with Air Quality,” Councilman Kraig Hafen said to Fire Chief Kash Christopher.

Council agreed to allow Sweetin and Christopher to draft a policy related to burn permits to reflect that stance.

Follow Lucas Thomas on Twitter, @LucasThomas14, or call him at 702-232-0603.



Survey: Mesquite voters want smoke-free casinos

by Emily Havens, September 1, 2016

Working at a casino presumably has its ups and downs, just like any other job or career.

About one-third of the Mesquite workforce, however, is being exposed to life-threatening health risks every day through inhalation of secondhand smoke, and the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air is now armed with results from a survey that found a clear majority of the city's voters strongly support its efforts to ban indoor smoking in all workplaces, including the city's biggest businesses.

A May 2016 Public Opinion Strategies survey of nearly 300 registered voters in Mesquite found that 62 percent favor a local ordinance requiring total smoke-free air in all workplaces, including bars and casinos. An overwhelming majority, 81 percent, also believe secondhand smoke to be a public health hazard, and 55 percent said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a local ordinance requiring completely smoke-free workplaces for all Mesquite workers.

Not only are Mesquite voters in favor of less exposure to secondhand smoke, but also less of them are smoking.

According to a Clark County Adult Tobacco survey conducted in early 2016, there’s a 12.6 percent smoking prevalence rate among adults in the county, significantly lower than the 17 percent a similar study found five years ago, said Nicole Chacon, a Southern Nevada Health District representative.

Although the survey results show a large following, Chacon said the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air needs to be tactful about its approach to presenting to the Mesquite City Council to be successful. So, the coalition is continuing to push for more local support by hosting a community education meeting at Wedgies Sports Bar & Grill on Sept. 8 at 5 p.m.

"When you’ve got this kind of support, it’s big," said Cindy Roragen, an advocacy affiliate for the American Cancer Society Action Network. "We know this matters to people in Mesquite, and we hope that folks pay attention to it."

If the coalition is successful, Mesquite would be the first city in Nevada to pass a local law regarding smoking in public places that would be stronger than state law.

The Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air is a coalition formed just over five years ago that aims to improve the community’s health by protecting its citizens from secondhand smoke in indoor public places.

While Nevada’s Clean Indoor Air Act, passed in 2006, prohibits smoking in most indoor work and public places, exemptions to the law still expose employees and patrons in casinos, nightclubs and some bars to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Those health risks include, but aren’t limited to, cardiovascular disease, stroke and lung cancer. Casino employees are breathing in more than 7,000 chemicals from secondhand smoke, 70 of which can cause cancer while hundreds are also toxic, the Centers for Disease Control reports.​

Chacon said Mesquite is well-positioned to be a leader in clean indoor air in Nevada.

"Mesquite has a really strong, active group of coalition members," she said. "Geographically, they aren’t in competition with larger casinos. A good deal of its economy revolves around health, and this goal fits in really nice with the vision of what city leaders want the community to be."

Additionally, Christine Picior, the coalition’s community educator, said the casinos won’t suffer in lieu of the ban because Mesquite’s locals aren’t likely going to gamble elsewhere. She said it would actually be more beneficial for the casinos, whereas they could advertise clean, comfortable air to its patrons.

In fact, another key outcome of the survey found that 58 percent of Mesquite voters said they are more likely to patronize bars and casinos if they are smoke free, and that includes spending more time there.

"Those casinos would continue to thrive," Chacon said. "We want them to be successful. People would stay longer, and they don’t stay as long as they’d like to because the smoke bothers them."

The next step, Chacon said, would be for the Mesquite City Council to introduce an ordinance that would close all the exemptions in the current state law regarding clean air in workplaces. Historically, she said a lot of cities have gone 100 percent smoke-free within 60 or 90 days of approval, which gives the casinos opportunities to build outdoor smoking areas, make signage and allow them to prepare for the change.

While there’s no set-in-stone timeline for Mesquite, Chacon said the coalition would like to have something in place by the Nov. 8 general election.

Picior said every Mesquite city leader has an obligation to the citizens and constituents who want a ban.

"They keep saying we need to take it to a ballot, but it’s not up to the voters to decide, it’s up to the city leaders," Picior said. "It’s their job to protect the citizens and workers, and they don’t need to feed into special interest groups."

In order for the coalition to be successful, Chacon said the Mesquite population who would support the ordinance needs to be "overwhelmingly active" in showing support so the city council members feel protected when it moves forward.

Chacon also said communities that have successfully gone smoke-free in all workplaces have done most of the work at the local level, whereas it’s harder for the tobacco industry to combat local communities as opposed to state legislature.

Providing education to the community is extremely important, Picior said, and some elected officials don’t know that stricter laws on secondhand smoke can be passed at the city level.

"If education isn’t being provided to elected officials all over the state, that’s a major concern," Chacon said. "There aren’t a lot of tobacco resources in our state. People assume all the tax money that comes in from cigarettes goes toward prevention, but not a single cent of it does."

Also, the CDC recommends Nevada should spend some $30 million on tobacco control efforts each year. But, according to the SNHD, the state only spends about $1 million.

The bottom line, Chacon said, is that the No. 1 reason why Mesquite should enact an ordinance requiring every workplace to be smoke-free is because it would make a “real difference” in health since so many Mesquite residents are exposed to secondhand smoke in their workplaces.

The second biggest benefit: "If a city in Nevada sees another city do it, it would help other communities see that they too can be successful," she said.

For Picior, it’s all about health. She said Mesquite needs to work harder to protect everyone equally.

"This is something that’s preventable," Picior said. "This is something we can fix, and we should fix it."

If you go: 

What: Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air community education meeting
When: Thursday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m.
Where: Wedgies Sports Bar & Grill, 796 W. Pioneer Blvd.

Follow reporter Emily Havens on Twitter, @EmilyJHavens. Email her at or call her at 435-640-4825.



We all deserve to breathe clean indoor air, Desert Valley Times, August 23, 2016

Clean indoor air group continues efforts, Desert Valley Times, June 30, 2016


We can do better, Mesquite Desert Valley Times, May 18, 2016

Clean air indoor group receives boost from Mesquite Councilman Desert Valley Times, May 9, 2016

Longtime Nevada bartender Lysa Buonanno writes about living with lung cancer she believes was caused by breathing secondhand smoke at work: "To begin eliminating secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace, we need to talk about it. That’s why I encourage everyone to get involved with Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air." Desert Valley Times, May 6, 2016 

Henderson cocktail waitress blames secondhand smoke for her lung cancer Las Vegas Review Journal, April 14, 2016

Clean indoor air debate continues in Mesquite, when dozens gather to show support for cleaner indoor air in Nevada casinos Desert Valley Times, April 1, 2016

Mesquite group wants clean casino air Desert Valley Times August 7, 2015

Showing 3 reactions

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  • Patty Mattos
    commented 2018-01-17 06:20:22 -0800
    Ball show, I really enjoyed the content.
  • Elna S
    commented 2016-08-23 19:39:12 -0700
  • Kathleen Snow
    commented 2016-06-26 04:32:28 -0700

    Another article I wrote to help bring awareness to the dangers of secondhand smoke.

    Keep fighting! Everyone deserves safe clean air!

    Kathleen Snow