Jobs vs. health; heated Mesquite City Council meeting tackles risks of smoking ban

Members of the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air wear blue shirts at a City Council meeting to show their support for a proposal to ban smoking in public places in Mesquite, Nev., June 13, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

MESQUITE, Nev. —  Mesquite City Council members were persuaded Wednesday that a proposed ban on smoking in public places would have a negative financial impact on the city.

Mesquite City Council member George Rapson talks about how the proposed Mesquite Clean Air Initiative would negatively affect the city and local businesses in Mesquite, Nev., June 13, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

Council heard arguments for and against the initiative at a public hearing on the financial impact of the proposal on the city’s coffers. City Council chambers were nearly filled, with half of the room donning blue shirts in support of the initiative.

“I, for the life of me, under no circumstances, say that this would be a financial benefit to the city,” said councilman George Rapson, echoing the sentiments shared by several council members at the meeting. “Hearing all of the comments from the casinos, there could only be some negative impact.”

If the Mesquite residents championing the Mesquite Clean Air Initiative gain enough signatures on a petition, the question of whether the city should ban smoking in public places would be put to the voters in November. The proposal would ban smoking in public places in Mesquite, including casinos, bars, tobacco stores, bus stops and outdoor playgrounds.

Read more: Casinos without the smoke? Mesquite citizen group aims to ban smoking in public places

While many community members voiced their opinion about how harmful secondhand smoking was to health and comfort in the casinos, several council members reminded people that the purpose of the public hearing was to hear comments about how the proposal would impact city finances through the taxes local businesses pay. Mayor Allan Litman even had to demand proponents of the initiative to stop booing people who shared differing opinions than them.

A sign for a casino in Mesquite, Nev., where a proposed city ordinance would ban smoking in all public places, including casinos, where smoking has traditionally been allowed. June 30, 2015 | Photo by Ericbvd/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Christine Picior, a member of Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air, said the City Council and mayor were biased against the proposal for mentioning how it would harm the city and local businesses.

The Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air has been coming to City Council for nearly seven years without getting it to take action, Picior said.

“We have been educating the community and the council on the serious public health problems of secondhand smoke. The community is clearly getting how dangerous it is, but the City Council wouldn’t even hear it. … They have other interests in mind.”

Other members of the advocacy group spoke about how they felt discriminated against because they couldn’t go into casinos without breathing heavy smoke, which they said seriously harms their health.

There were also a couple of investors, a casino boss and a smoker who spoke at the public hearing about why they would oppose the plan to ban smoking in public places.

Greg Lee, CEO of Eureka Casino Hotel in Mesquite, spoke about his fears of how a smoking ban would harm his business and the Mesquite economy. Lee said he provided models to the City Council about what would happen if a smoking ban caused gaming revenue to drop by 12 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent.

A member of the Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air addresses the City Council at a public hearing in Mesquite, Nev., June 13, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

“Truthfully, all of these (models) are devastating. They’re devastating to jobs, they’re devastating to our business, and we believe they could be very, very devastating to the overall stability of the Mesquite economy.”

Speaking on behalf of the employees at Eureka Casino Hotel, Lee said the proposal would harm them because it would put their jobs at risk. People wanting to smoke in casinos will take their business to Las Vegas if this proposal is adopted.

Casinos like the Eureka have helped stimulate the economy in Mesquite by tens of millions of dollars, Rapson said.

Despite the big-money opposition to the proposal, Picior said they will continue to fight for the initiative to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of Mesquite.

“My people have been out there in 100-degree weather collecting signatures for hours,” Picior said. “They’re passionate about it and we’re not going to stop fighting for this.”

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3 Comments

  • Craig June 14, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Why are cigarettes still available? It’s the only legal product we have that, if used as intended, kills you. We have other products that, if abused or misused, can kill you; but, cigarettes are the only one killing when used as intended.

    I always assumed the cost of taking care of old smokers would be staggering for Medicare, so why wouldn’t government do domething to save those costs.

    I finally, after over years practicing medicine, pulled some reseaech. Cigarettes have two staggering benefits to government –

    1. The unbelievable sums spent on lobbying and buying votes.

    2. I was wrong about Medicare. Overall, cigatettes save the governmrnt a ton of money because smokers die enough younger that they save Medicare money by not dealing with those people as they age.

    There is no incentive to help rid us of cigarettes and help people. One wonders if that’s why the Europeans and other socialist countries have even more smokers than we do.

    An article in Forbes discusses this – https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/03/22/alcohol-obesity-and-smoking-do-not-cost-health-care-systems-money/amp/

  • Brian June 14, 2018 at 7:53 am

    It’s interesting to me how much correlation there seems to be between smoking and gambling, which to me are both unwise activities. Correlation is not causation, and almost certainly isn’t in this case (there are plenty that smoke that don’t gamble, and vice-versa), but there still seems to be a big overlap inside the casinos themselves. Based solely on casual observation it seems like a higher number of casino patrons smoke than the general populace. No conclusion is drawn; just an observation.

  • mmsandie June 14, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Smoking isn,t good for anyone, companies now consider that when hiring people because of health costs and loss with sick days, 8nhave battled with best friends who battle cancer all the time, many give up smoking they hear they have cancer others smoke til the last breath.
    Vegas has non smoking casinos, they are successful..I noticed fewer people are smoking in casinos
    Hope they decide what’s good for the majority..

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