Casino workers' dreams of clean air go up in smoke

Issue date: 27 October 2005


Casino workers' dreams of clean air go up in smoke

Casino workers' dreams of clean air in the workplace have gone up in smoke following the Government's decision not to introduce a comprehensive smoking ban in all workplaces. This is the view of Paul Pilkington from the University of the West of England who recently authored a report highlighting the health problems of casino workers who work largely in private member clubs that will not be touched by legislation currently under discussion.
Casinos may be excluded from any smoking ban because they are private members clubs. Casino workers are exposed to high levels of second hand smoke for long periods of time, in rooms that have little or no ventilation. Often they will work for hours just feet away from seven or more smokers.
A recent survey of six hundred casino workers* found 96% want some form of smoking restriction in casinos, with two thirds favouring a smoke-free workplace.
The survey found casino workers have worryingly high levels of health problems. 50% of respondents reported being regularly short of breath, while over 40% said they have wheeze in their chest. Exposure to second hand smoke is linked to an increased risk of respiratory disease.
Paul Pilkington, said, “This decision will disappoint the hundreds of casino workers who completed the survey and said they wanted to work in a smoke-free workplace. We submitted the findings to the government's consultation but it seems they ignored it. The Cabinet members who pressed for these exclusions should work for a week in a smoky casino and then maybe they would understand how bad it is.”
Michael Ainsley from the GMB Union added, “These proposals are nothing more than a smoke-screen, leaving tens of thousands of workers unprotected. Thousands of people work in casinos and they are exposed to levels of smoke much greater than in pubs and bars. Is the Government saying that these workers don't have a right to work in a healthy atmosphere? We urge the Government to implement a comprehensive ban on workplace smoking that protects all workers.”

Notes for editors

* The report, “Are London casino workers concerned about exposure to other people's tobacco smoke?” was conducted by Paul Pilkington at the University of the West of England, working with the TGWU and the GMB Trade Unions. A summary of the report findings is below:

• 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.
• 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

Other contact details

Paul Pilkington, study author can be contacted on: 0117 3288860 or 0771 338 2746.

Michael Ainsley, London Regional Organiser for the GMB Union can be contacted on: 07974250947.

Michael Dunn, former casino worker who received a pay settlement relating to health problems caused by exposure to second hand smoke in the workplace can be contacted via Paul Pilkington.

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