For nearly a decade, Owensboro has benefited from a smoke-free law protecting employees, residents, kids, and visitors from secondhand smoke. Now, Ellis Entertainment and Churchill Downs want to create a loophole for businesses that meet a certain size and capital investment threshold to accommodate their new gaming venue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Ventilation systems might reduce odor, but they cannot eliminate the dangerous invading particles and toxins. Smoke migrates into adjacent rooms and buildings, putting nonsmoking employees and patrons at risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and other illnesses.
Exemptions to smoke-free laws for one type of business can prompt costly lawsuits. In 2007, a Louisville circuit court judge ruled that an exemption allowing indoor smoking at Churchill Downs violated the equal protections provision of the Kentucky Constitution. Churchill Downs’ flagship facility in Louisville has been smoke-free indoors since 2008.
Smoke-free casinos are the new normal, as over 1000 casinos in the U.S. are smoke-free. A 2022 report by C3 Gaming, a Las Vegas research firm, found that smoke-free casinos generated more revenue than casinos that allow smoking. Additionally, 79% of casino patrons prefer to play in a smoke-free facility, regardless of whether they smoke or not.
For years, Owensboro has been a leader in health. Let’s not go backward now. Tell your city commission member to vote NO on March 21.
Timothy Wm. Mullett, MD, MBA, FACS
Board Member, Local Leadership Board
American Lung Association in Kentucky
Professor, Thoracic Surgery
University of Kentucky