To improve the health of workers, the Shreveport City Council introduced a smoke-free ordinance on May 26th that unfortunately exempts casinos and gaming facilities. Help the American Heart Association protect all workers in Shreveport from secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke and vapor is a serious health hazard for nonsmokers. In fact, studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25-30 percent higher among people exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.
The American Heart Association (AHA) believes all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. As such, Ashley Hebert, Louisiana Government Relations Director for the AHA, provided testimony during the council meeting, asking local elected officials to add casinos and gaming facilities to the proposed ordinance. The Shreveport City Council is expected to vote June 9th.
Here is Ashley Hebert's full testimony:
Good afternoon members,
As Louisiana Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association, I thank you for the opportunity to address the importance of comprehensive smoke-free laws that protect every employee's right to breathe smoke-free air.
The American Heart Association has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. A shared focus on cardiovascular health unites our more than 33 million volunteers and supporters.
Resolution 51 exempts casinos and gaming operations in Shreveport’s Smoke-free Air Act. This failure to update the city’s ordinance in a comprehensive way that prohibits smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes at both bars and casinos falls short of protecting Shreveport hospitality workers and patrons – and will further exacerbate the history of health disparity in Louisiana.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana faced poor health outcomes. Our residents already suffer from obesity, diabetes, and hypertension at rates higher than the national average. Exposure to secondhand smoke puts healthy people and vulnerable populations at risk of contracting and suffering from the virus.
According to state health reports a, 97 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in Louisiana involved a preexisting condition in early April. Diabetes was seen in 40 percent of the deaths, obesity in 25 percent, chronic kidney disease in 23 percent and cardiac problems in 21 percent. Other factors do contribute to the state’s high death rate, but these are the most prevalent.
While we are anxious to return to our way of life in Louisiana, we have a unique opportunity to emerge from this pandemic in a healthy way by limiting exposure to secondhand smoke in all Shreveport’s workplaces, including bars and casinos. In case you missed it, twenty-nine municipalities in Louisiana are already 100% smoke free, which protects twenty-two percent of the state’s population.
Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, which released the first report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, 2.5 million nonsmoking adults have died due to secondhand smoke. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure as it has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and can cause coronary heart disease and stroke. People who already have heart disease are higher risk for adverse effects from breathing secondhand smoke and should take special precautions to avoid even brief exposure.
Secondhand smoke also has a significant economic price. The results of all credible peer-reviewed studies show smoke-free policies and regulations do not negatively impact business revenues. Establishing smoke-free workplaces is the simplest and most cost-effective way to improve worker and business health. If all workplaces were to implement 100 percent smoke-free policies, the reduction in heart attack rates due to exposure to secondhand smoke would save the United States $49 million in direct medical savings within the first year alone, with savings increasing over time.
The American Heart Association opposes Resolution 51 as written and implores the Council to amend the ordinance to include casinos and gaming facilities. No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck.