Smoking Ban Fans Analyze Casinos' Air Samples

Dr. Kevin Weiland came home after a Saturday night at Deadwood casinos with a headache and clothes that reeked of cigarette smoke.

But the Rapid City doctor hopes it will be worth it when state legislators see the results of the air-quality samples he was taking: five of 10 casinos had indoor air-quality levels that peaked above what the Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous for outdoor air.

If you look at a busy highway, these are like six times that," Weiland said.

Proponents of the bill plan to present the air-quality data Wednesday, Feb. 18, in Pierre before the House State Affairs Committee in hopes the state-specific data sways legislators to give a statewide smoking ban another chance.

The Senate killed its version of the ban earlier this month.

HB1240 would close all of the exceptions in the state's smoke-free workplace law and ban smoking in all public indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars, casinos, video lottery establishments, hotel rooms and discount cigarettes shops.

Those against the bill have argued that a smoking ban would reduce gambling revenues statewide.

"We're hoping to give a snapshot of what's really going on in South Dakota, so we're basing our decision on a smoke-free law on what's going on in South Dakota, rather than what's going on in other states," said Jennifer Stalley, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society.

Weiland said he conducted the air quality study Jan. 24 with the help of the cancer society and the University of South Dakota's Sanford School of Medicine.

He went to 10 establishments over the course of the evening, spending from twenty minutes to two hours in each location in smoking and smoke-free areas.

"The ones we got the best data were the ones where we stayed coughing and hacking for two hours," Weiland said.

Of the 10 establishments, five peaked at levels that would be considered "hazardous," four at "very unhealthy" and one "unhealthy," Weiland said.

According to the EPA's air-quality index, measurements of airborne particles range from "good" to "hazardous" depending on the level of pollutants.

At hazardous levels, health warnings are warranted for the entire population, Weiland said, and at least one casino peaked above that level.

Stalley said the data prove the level of danger locally instead of just anecdotally or with data from other states.

"It just really drives home the point we've been making all legislative session," Stalley said. "We know we have people that are working in environments that are just not safe."

Deadwood Gaming Association president Rich Turbiville could not be reached for comment.

House majority and minority leaders Bob Faehn, R-Watertown, and Bernie Hunhoff, R-Yankton, are sponsors of the House bill.

Locally, Rep. Ed McLaughlin, R-Rapid City, and Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, have signed on in support of the ban.

The Senate voted to kill its version of the smoking ban, 18-17, during the first week in February.


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