LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A former assistant U.S. Surgeon General is calling on casinos to make their facilities smoke free to protect their employees, guests and liability. 

Rear Admiral (ret) James M. Galloway, MD, wrote in the June issue of Global Gaming Business magazine, that “the COVID-19 pandemic closed all 989 commercial and tribal casino properties in the U.S.,” and says that now is the time for casinos to “reevaluate the risks and benefits of making their facilities smoke free.” 

Dr. Galloway served as Assistant U.S. Surgeon General, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service and the Regional Health Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Presidents Bush and Obama. He also served as a Senior Federal Official for Health for Pandemic Influenza and Bioterrorism.

“We have grown well aware of our need to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19… We also know that older individuals and those with chronic disease are at substantially increased risk for more severe disease. Of note, 58% of casino players are aged 50 years or greater,” Dr. Galloway said.

According to Dr. Galloway, there is emerging evidence that smokers are a vulnerable group to COVID-19. He says that smoking cigarettes has been determined as a “risk factor for severe complications and death from COVID-19 by both the CDC and the WHO, as well as many others in the medical profession.”

While young adults are at a lower risk, Dr. Galloway notes the effects of smoking on the respiratory system makes it more likely that smokers may have increased susceptibility to the virus as they move their hands and cigarettes to and from their mouth.

Dr. Galloway also noted the effects of second hand smoke.

“The fact that second hand smoke compromises the host’s ability to combat respiratory infections raises serious health and liability concerns about casinos that allow smoking in their facilities,” he said.