Smoking Ban at Casinos Lowers Health Gamble

Heart attack risk may drop in Colorado casinos as smoking ban leads to fewer ambulance calls

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When it comes to heart and lung health, Colorado gamblers may have hit the jackpot. Since the ban on smoking in casinos in the state, ambulance calls in one county have dropped.

Casinos have a long history as establishments for smoking and drinking. Even for those who don’t smoke, the odds are against their health when inhaling secondhand smoke. Studies have shown that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25 to 30 percent higher among people exposed to this “environmental tobacco smoke” compared to those who are not.

A new report underscores the benefits of not smoking — since smoking was extinguished in Colorado casinos in 2008, ambulance calls to casinos in Gilpin County dropped by about 20 percent.

"Quit smoking to reduce your risk of heart disease."

Stanton Glantz, PhD, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, served as lead author on this study.

After analyzing the data on ambulance calls, Dr. Glantz and his coauthor, Erin Gibbs, deputy director of the Gilpin Ambulance Authority, observed a link between eliminating exposure to smoke and the reduction in ambulance calls.

The researchers noted that when Colorado prohibited smoking in public locations, including workplaces, restaurants and bars, in 2006, the ban did not include casinos. At that time, ambulance calls dipped by 22.8 percent.

Jump forward to 2008. When the state extended smoking restrictions to casinos, ambulance drivers got even fewer calls. Ambulance calls declined by 19.1 percent at casinos, while the rate did not change at other locations.

Dr. Glantz said in a statement that this is "strong evidence that the law is what caused the change in ambulance calls."

He also emphasized that getting rid of the dangers of secondhand smoke may have partially contributed to the drop.

"Inhaling secondhand smoke increases the chances of blood clots that can block arteries and makes it more difficult for arteries to expand properly, changes that can trigger heart attacks,” said Dr. Glantz in a press release. “The calls may also have decreased due to smokers not being able to smoke in the casinos, thus avoiding the immediate toxic effects of smoke on their blood and blood vessels and because some people quit smoking.”

Investigators selected Gilpin, Colorado for this study because, with 28 casinos, it has the largest concentration of casinos in the state.

As of spring 2013, 20 states have laws requiring that gambling facilities be smoke-free. An additional 28 states have state-regulated gambling, but they may have only partial smoke-free laws or none at all, according to Dr. Glantz.

He added that state laws do not apply to American Indian casinos, and only a few of those have a smoking ban.

“My advice for people with heart disease is to make your home smoke free and don’t visit casinos or other venues with secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Glantz.

This research was published August 5 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The National Cancer Institute funded the study.

Review Date: 
August 5, 2013
Last Updated:
August 6, 2013