New York to Ban Smoking in Parks?
How About the Seneca-Niagara Casino?
By Mike Hudson
New York State government has often been hypocritical, but never more so than in its schizophrenic attitude towards tobacco smoke.
On the one hand, it tried and failed to ban cigarette smoking in state parks, and on the other it continues to collect around $135 million a year from Indian-run gambling halls like the Seneca-Niagara Casino, a place that, on a good night, reeks like an ashtray.
New York banned smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor facilities in 2003. Lawmakers said they were concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on employees of the businesses.
Secondhand smoke is classified as a "known human carcinogen" (cancer-causing agent) by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U. S. National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.
The law had the immediate effect of putting large numbers of marginal taverns out of business statewide. An interesting side effect, revealed in research published in 2008 in the Journal of Public Economics, examined statistics of drunken-driving fatalities and accidents in areas where smoke-free laws have been implemented in bars and found that fatal drunken-driving accidents increased by about 13 percent, or about 2.5 such accidents per year for a typical county of 680,000.
The authors of the article speculated this could be caused by smokers driving farther away to jurisdictions without smoke-free laws or where enforcement is lax such as Indian casinos.
New York's ban on outdoor smoking in state parks was blocked by a judge after a smokers'-rights group argued that the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation had exceeded its authority.
Supreme Court Justice George B. Ceresia Jr., in a ruling dated Oct. 8, permanently blocked the office from implementing or enforcing the ban and ordered it to remove any signs referring to it.
The Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation said in a statement it has legislative authority to "manage a wide variety of activities within state parks to balance often conflicting uses of our patrons."
"We believe this authority extends to the regulation of outdoor smoking on playgrounds, swimming pools, beaches and other locations where children and visitors congregate," the parks office said. "We are considering an appeal of the court's decision."
Smoking is permitted at Indian casinos because they are technically located on tribal lands, even when they're plopped down in the middle of a city like Niagara Falls.
While a disproportionate number of casino patrons smoke, casino employees - the majority of whom are not Indians and are residents of New York State - are forced to endure the cancer- causing secondhand smoke the state law was designed to protect them from.
And you don't hear any lawmakers or bureaucrats complaining about it, either, not even when a casino compact is extended by Albany, as it was with the Seneca Niagara Casino earlier this year.
Any state-run casinos that may be built at some time in the future would likely not share in the smoking freedom, meaning that they would operate at a disadvantage from the start.
And the reason is simple. New York allows the Indians to do what they want because of the millions in casino revenue the tribes send off to Albany each year.
And the only losers are the casino employees.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Nov 05, 2013