Smoking sections don’t work in casinos, group says

Trenton — Isolating smoking areas, as are now proposed for Atlantic City casinos, intensifies smoke contamination inside and out of the smoking area, according to a New Jersey anti-smoking group that took readings on similar gaming floors in Rhode Island.

„The more tightly you concentrate the pollution sources, the more highly you increase the pollution,“ said Regina Carlson, executive director of the Summit-based group called the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution, or GASP.

Carlson said the smoking section in one Rhode Island casino, containing 30 percent of the gaming area, showed more polluted air than the smoking section in another casino, where the smoking section contained 50 percent of the wagering area.

„But most important, for employees and patrons in any of these smoking areas, quite simply, the air is not fit to breathe,“ Carlson said.

Casino spokesmen did not respond to calls Friday seeking comment on the report.

The City Council in Atlantic City is wrestling with a municipal smoking law for the casinos, which were spared in last April’s state law that banned all smoking in the work place.

Atlantic City is looking at what is called the „75-25 split,“ where 25 percent of the casino’s gambling floor would be set aside and walled off for smokers.

In Rhode Island, where state law already requires the same sort of room dividers, GASP researchers, with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, estimated that confining smoking to 25 percent of the floor could kick up dirty-air levels to four times the levels in undivided casinos.

The two organizations said a full-time worker in the smokers‘ space would be exposed to five times the limits allowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In the casinos today, the exposure exceeds the EPA limit by one and a half, they said.

The groups said they ran the Rhode Island tests Jan. 26 through 29.

Carlson said the nonsmoking sections of the two Rhode Island casinos were not smoke-free, saying one ranged from 17 percent to 37 percent as polluted as the smoking section and the other was 39 percent as polluted as the smoking section.

„The separately walled and ventilated nonsmoking sections are still one-third as polluted as the extra-polluted smoking sections. Clearly, at least in Rhode Island casinos, this so-called solution doesn’t work,“ she said.

The Rhode Island casinos were in Newport and Lincoln Park.