Citizen group continues to push clean air initiative
By Lucas M Thomas
As efforts continue by the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air to eradicate smoke from the city’s casinos, a recent survey from the Southern Nevada Health District shows the population of adults who smoke in Clark County has decreased by nearly 6 percent.
In a survey in which 386 interviews were conducted, the 2016 Clark County Adult Tobacco Survey shows that daily tobacco use is at 12.6 percent, down from 18.4 percent in 2012. Despite the decrease, the survey found an increase in respondents who said they’ve exposed to secondhand smoke at work in a casino, showing the coalition still faces its biggest challenge: the gaming industry.
Last week, Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and the ANR Foundation, was in Mesquite to help push the smoke-free effort.
“My goal is to make sure that the momentum continues in Mesquite,” Hallett said of her visit. Hallett acknowledged the daunting task of bringing about change in a city located within the borders of America’s pinnacle gaming state.
“Maybe it’s our job as national partners … to really help the casinos understand that there is ultimately an enormous benefit,” Hallett said.
Achieving a smoke-free workplace in the casinos will require a citywide mandate, something the Mesquite City Council has been reluctant to explore. Nicole Chacon of the Southern Nevada Health District said the coalition is still in the process of trying to educate new council members. The three councilmen who won election last November all said they opposed putting restrictions on businesses.
“I have a hard time telling someone who has a business, if it’s legal, I have a hard time legislating that,” Councilman Brian Wursten told the Desert Valley Times last year. Wursten added, “I’m definitely for clean air, I do prefer it that way, and if we vote for that through the city of Mesquite, once again, I’ll support the citizens.”
Councilmen George Rapson and Dave Ballweg echoed Wursten’s sentiment that they favored clean indoor air, but both said they didn’t want Mesquite to become Nevada’s experiment city.
Councilman Rich Green has attended coalition sponsored events, and met with Hallett and Chacon last week.
When asked what progress has been made with city council members, Chacon answered, “I feel like in some conversations we’ve had, there’s some movement (but) maybe not with all of them.”
Hallett acknowledged council members’ reservations but argued that Mesquite should embrace the opportunity.
“While Mesquite understandably probably doesn’t want to be kind of the experiment or in this test tube, what we have seen historically with smoke-free is that smaller towns are always the innovators,” she said.
The challenges Mesquite faces — such as being the first city statewide to enact a smoke-free workplace in casinos or changing long-standing traditions — aren’t different from what other cities across America have overcome, Chacon said. Citing the findings of the 2015 Adult Tobacco Survey, Chacon said exposing workers to secondhand smoke in casinos is “about catering to a very small group of people.” Removing smoke from casinos, she said, would appeal to the nearly 88 percent of people who did not report daily tobacco use.
“It’s sort of shifting that frame of mind from what business we’re going to lose to what business we’re going to gain, and I think that’s something people just don’t think about,” Chacon said. “How many people stay away because they can’t be around the smoke?”
The Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air plan to continue their efforts by marching in the Mesquite Days parade next month. They will also have a booth at the Mesquite Recreation Center during Mesquite Days.