The implementation of the Shreveport Smoke-free Air Act in 2021 was lauded as a step in the right direction toward providing safer working conditions for residents of Shreveport. It acknowledged the harmful effects of tobacco use not only on primary users but on those who are exposed through secondhand smoke. It particularly sent the message that the health of those residents who worked in establishments where smoking is more likely to take place–bars and casinos–were being privileged over profit. It seems that is no longer the case. The recent repeal of the ban on indoor smoking exclusively in Shreveport casinos, has sent the message to Shreveport residents that their health is negotiable if enough money is on the table.
This move came as a response to unexplained losses in revenue at the city’s gaming establishments, and the claim that the ban was causing Shreveport to lose its competitive edge with surrounding casinos that are not smoke-free. While there were slight changes in casino revenue since the ordinance, examinations of similar smoking bans in restaurants, bars and casinos throughout the U.S. showed this to be temporary and often tied to other factors. The ban was placed in the middle of a pandemic which saw many people refraining from their usual social activities. To use losses that could not be directly attributed to the smoking ban to justify repealing an ordinance that protects people from life-threatening smoke exposure shows just how willing some are to compromise those they already don't value. Gaming revenue has always been cyclical, relying heavily on the economy of the area, so to attribute a loss in revenue to an indoor smoking ordinance is inaccurate and an old tactic of opponents to public health policies such as this one.
It is important to note that the majority of casino workers in Shreveport are Black women, a demographic that is historically overworked, underpaid and overwhelmingly at risk for heart-related death, infertility and other health issues made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke. In a case of working against our communities best interest, the councilwoman who authored this repeal is also a Black woman. The original idea of this ordinance was to protect the workers and non-smoking patrons of gaming establishments from the harms of secondhand smoke, and removing it a mere two years after it was passed had now placed those people in harm’s way.
The gaming industry is one of the largest employers in the city of Shreveport. When casino employees sign up to work in a gambling establishment, they are choosing to support local businesses with their labor under the reasonable expectation that their work environment will be safe. City leaders have now failed to ensure that safety.
Ultimately, with this repeal, the leaders of Shreveport are forcing people to work in an environment that does not value their health.