Anti-smoking law is unfair

We commend to readers a reading of Michael Connolly’s letter. It describes the difficulties Nevada restaurant owners face because of the way the state’s anti-smoking law was created.

Anti-tobacco citizens went to the Nevada Legislature repeatedly trying to break the casino lobby’s stranglehold on the process. One year, they even got some counties to put a straw vote on the ballot so the public could express itself, and still the lawmakers wouldn’t listen. Finally, the anti-smoking folks turned to a ballot petition.

This is always a poor substitute for real lawmaking. If the legislature had shown some backbone, there would have been a carefully crafted law that met the public’s demand for health and still have put all businesses on a level playing field so no one had a competitive advantage.

But when the legislators failed to do that, those who circulated the initiative petition caught the same malady from which their lawmakers suffered—fear of the casinos. They drafted a ballot measure that was very difficult to understand and carved out exceptions to accomodate the casinos.

Patrons in a bar with a restaurant can’t smoke, but they can walk across the street to a stand-alone bar or a casino bar and can smoke. As a result, some restaurant/bars are reporting a fall-off in business. What was needed was a law under which patrons could not get a better deal by walking across the street. What we got was a law that burdened smaller businesses the most.

All of these public places, with or without food, should have been put into the law under the same terms. Food isn’t the issue. Health is, particularly that of workers.

The law should have been better written less for the protection of the patrons than for the protection of the workers. A patron may spend a couple of hours in a smoky business. The workers spend their entire shifts there. A dealer at a horseshoe shaped table may be in the center of a half-dozen smokers.

Anyone who has ever worked in a casino knows the scrubbing it takes after a shift to get the tobacco smell off. It’s a shame that the effect on a worker’s insides can’t be as easily cleansed.

Those with long memories may recall the shoe store fluoroscopes that were once supposedly used to “size” shoes (though the entertainment value was probably a larger factor). Some of these machines emitted more than 100 roentgens and were very dangerous—to the salespeople who had to operate them more than to the customers.

Because Nevada’s casinos don’t care about the health of their workers enough to ban smoking, legislators should have protected those workers while at the same time protected businesses from the kind of lopsided enforcement that now prevails. Instead, lawmakers were too cowardly to stand up to the casinos. Little wonder people have minimal faith in the system, and voter turnout is so low.