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Nevada Easing smoking Ban? -"What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"- We Can Only HopeApr 23, 2009 22:07 EDT
According to the April 18th New York Times, the Nevada state senate voted 16-5 to advance a measure that would soften the status of the statewide public smoking ban. Legislators are hoping to pass a measure that resembles that of our neighboring state of Tennessee. The Volunteer state doesn't quite understand that adults "are people too" as they only restrict smoking in places that patronize human beings under the age of 21.(Hey, you do have to give them credit for learning that children exposed to 2nd hand smoke have a 3x increased risk of lung cancer as adults.) Nevada, blaming their decrease in casino revenue on the ban passed in 2007 obviously hasn't come away from the roulette wheel long enough to read the newspaper. Excuse me, but has anyone in Nevada noticed that the US is now in a depress......recess.......I mean economic slow down?
FIVE Nevada legislators understand the economics of tobacco use and voted against the measure. They are obviously among the few individuals voting who cared enough to actually study the economics of their state's health care plan at all. Earlier in the day, the New York Times reported that the Nevada State assembly passed legislation ensuring outpatient cancer treatment for indigents. Democrat Sen. John Lee who supports retaining the ban was incredulous at the turn of events and stated "if you are over 21 , it's oK to go ahead and kill yourself and everyone around you but the other house says 'wait a minute, my gosh.......if they have cancer, we've gotta take care of them'."
From 1999 to 2007, medicaid expenditures for the state tripled while average expenditures for the remainder of the country merely doubled. Nevada spent 1.2 billion medicaid dollars in large part due to heart disease death rates of 242/100,000 as compared with the 211/100,000 for the rest of the country. The smoking prevalence of 21% is higher than the US average of 19%. If anyone needs a smoking ban, it's a state who triples its medicaid expenditures over the course of 8 years. The Nevada FIVE are to be commended but probably feel a lot like Lot and his family just prior to their infamous city's final firework's display. Having FIVE " righteous" legislators just might save them. ( After all, Sodom and Gomorrah only had four.) .... OK, OK,......don't get your Cirque tickets in a twist.....I'm only kidding!
I'm not the brightest bulb on the casino marquee, but I'd suggest that the legislators look at the health benefits reaped by other cities who've passed REAL smoking bans (not fake ones like Tennessee) prior to voting. Pueblo Colorado's heart attack rate fell by 27% in just 18 months and by 41% by the end of the study period after passing a comprehensive public smoking ban. Surrounding cities who still allowed good clean air to be poisoned by the largely inconsiderate smokers saw no such decrease. New York City produced a greater than 50% reduction in teen smoking resulting in 24,000 fewer nicotine addicts who WON't have to take the subway to their chemo and radiation therapies in the future. Lexington, Ky. saw a 24% decrease in ER visits for acute asthma visits following their ban. From my viewpoint, smoking bans aren't much of a gamble. It's a sure bet for LONG TERM decreases in health care expenditures that will offset any supposed decrease in revenue from such concerns as losing the Tobacco Plus Expo convention. (a real "plus" anyway you smoke it in my book).
The finger pointing in Nevada reminds me of a story a patient told me last week. A very elderly gentleman said to me: "Yeah,.....I remember when you were a very little girl (about 5 years old I'd say), your mom and dad took you and your brother out to eat. A saucer was knocked off the end of the table and your dad had to pay for it. He thought your brother did it, but I saw who really did it", pointing to me. I vaguely remember eating there at all, much less the rest of the story, but it's the same situation as Nevada. Like my unsuspecting little brother, the Nevada Clean air act is getting the blame for slumping casino revenues when it fact, the entire country is in a slump period. On the other hand, it's interesting that the increase in lung cancer rates prior to the ban going into effect didn't get any attention at all from those who are now crying foul over the clean air act. Not a single casino or bar owner in support of softening the ban seems the least bit concerned that their patrons, co workers and family members will be dying at an alarmingly high rate. Maybe their penchant for rolling the dice extends to gambling with the health and human life of others as well.
Of course, The solution to the entire mess is obvious. OUR NATION MUST become a SMOKE FREE nation!!!! (Washington, are you listening??) That way, none of this whining about losing business could be blamed on patrons running to places where they can sniff carcinogens freely and enjoy increasing the cancer rates of their friends and neighbors without pesky bans. If the entire country were smoke free, we'd be " healthier and wealthier " and even "wiser" with all the money we could put toward education instead of toward chemo, radiation, home oxygen and primary PCI's.
So back to Nevada. I only hope for the sake of the rest of our country that "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas". If this state softens its smoking ban, I would hope that the rest of the country would stay OUT of Vegas, at least until someone else gets to deal the cards. If the state legislature votes to protect the public, lessen health care expenditures and prolong quality of life, then Nevada will have really hit the BIG Jack Pot!!