Survey reveals casino workers want a smoke free workplace

Issue date: 02 September 2005


Issue date: 02/09/05

The debate about smoking in the workplace has until recently focussed on pubs and bars but a recent survey has revealed that as many as 65% of casino workers want to see smoking banned in casinos.

The survey, ‘Are London casino workers concerned about exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke at work?’ led by researcher and lecturer in Public Health, Paul Pilkington at the University of the West of England and with the co-operation of the GMB and T&G trade unions, widens the debate on smoking in the workplace. The key findings show that casino workers are concerned about the health risks associated with exposure to others people’s smoke in casinos and most would support a comprehensive ban on smoking in all working areas.

Paul Pilkington said, “Casino workers are frequently exposed to high levels of tobacco smoke, as they work long shifts in smoky environments that often have little or no artificial or natural ventilation. But under the current government proposals, casinos may not become smoke-free, as they are private members’ clubs. We wanted to give casino workers a voice in the smoking debate, to see what smoking restrictions they favour and what concerns they have.”

The survey was restricted to union members because the major casino companies declined to participate in the study, meaning that access could only be gained to unionised workers. At the time of the survey 1,568 workers were union members, representing about 50%.*

Comments made by casino workers indicate that a key problem is customers who blow smoke into their faces when they are losing a game. Quotes from the survey include:

“I have been reported to a director of my company by a customer because I objected to her blowing smoke in my face.”

“It would be considered a very bad career move to suggest to a punter to refrain from smoking. If a dealer shows any sign of the dislike of smoke, the punter will then go out of his/her way to make this discomfort even more…”

“Punters blow cigar smoke at you when they are losing.”

Some customers purposely blow smoke into the dealer’s face, which is downright rude and grossly unpleasant.”

The report also highlights the fact that many casinos now seem to ask employees to sign a declaration that they are happy to work in a smoky environment. One worker taking part in the report said, “The casino has already taken steps by making new staff sign a clause in their contract that in the event of a smoke related illness they’\re not to sue the company. Smoking kills there are no two ways about it.”

Deborah Arnott, Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said, “It is disgraceful that casinos think they can get away with demanding that staff sign contracts agreeing to work in a smoky atmosphere or risk losing their jobs. This study is further proof of why the UK needs comprehensive smoke free laws. Greedy casino employers are driven solely by profit. If casino bosses are so unconcerned about the health of their staff that they allow customers to deliberately blow smoke in their faces then the government must legislate to protect them.”

The report summary findings are shown below. Paul Pilkington concludes. “The majority of casino workers who responded to our survey want their working area to be smoke-free, including 40% of current smokers. More than three quarters of workers are bothered by other people’s tobacco smoke at work, and over half believe their health has suffered as a result of that exposure, which then impacts on attendance at work. The findings strengthen the case for introducing a total smoking ban in all workplaces, including casinos.”

Summary of report findings

• 557 casino workers responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 36%.
• 22% of respondents are current cigarette smokers, compared to a national rate of 23% (ONS smoking-related behaviour and attitudes, 2004).
• 65% of the casino workers who responded want smoking to be banned in all working areas of the casino.
• Workers would in general prefer to maintain separate smoking and non-smoking staff rest areas (63%).
• 83% of casino workers report being exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke nearly all the time at work.
• 75% report being exposed to heavy levels of other people’s tobacco smoke at work.
• 78% of casino workers report being bothered by other people’s tobacco smoke at work, while 91% have at some time wanted to move away from where they work because of it.
• 57% of casino workers feel that their health has suffered because of exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke in the workplace, while a further 29% are not sure.
• 30% of casino workers have taken time off work because of a health problem they believe was caused by exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke whilst at work.
• Casino workers report higher levels of sensory irritation symptoms than California bar workers (before the California smoking legislation).
• 59% of casino workers who currently smoke at work believe that if no one was allowed to smoke in the casino they would try to quit smoking.

Ends

For a full copy of the report please contact the UWE Press Office

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