What it’s like working in secondhand smoke.
Terrie is a native of Las Vegas who began dealing blackjack at casinos in 1979. Little was known about secondhand smoke then. She loved the excitement of working in a casino—the celebrities, the thrill of the game—but she hated the smoke. Terrie tried to get some relief, like designating her table as non-smoking, but the casino management denied her and began a pattern of harassment that many women working in casinos face when they complain about working conditions. Terrie filed a complaint with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH came to screen staff for secondhand smoke exposure with masks and urinalysis, but she wasn’t allowed to participate as she was on suspension.
And then, once she was back on the floor, she was fired.
Terrie explains: “A customer lit up at my table and blew a large cloud of smoke right in my face. I didn’t want to breathe it in, so I blew the smoke away from my face. The woman loudly complained, stood, and yelled, ‘You blew my smoke at me!’ The pit boss came over and I was fired after 26 years of service.” Terrie was unemployed for over a year because of her whistle-blower status. She says, “I tried to get other work. Despite knowing I was putting myself at serious risk, I went back to work in a casino.”
NIOSH report shows toxins in the air.
The NIOSH report was released in May 2009, showing high levels of toxins in the air where casino dealers worked. Most casinos have not changed their smoking policies. At least four people who participated in the NIOSH report screenings have since died from heart disease or cancer. Terrie has suffered severe health problems from secondhand smoke exposure, including heart attack, stroke, and most recently, cancer.
Terrie was extraordinarily brave in coming forward to fight for smokefree air in casinos, and she continues her struggle to make it illegal for any employees to suffer the detrimental effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, no matter what their occupation.
Read more about secondhand smoke in gaming facilities.
How You Can Help
Even one click can help us if you vote for our story on #mygivingstory. Our story is about Alecia, a casino worker like Terrie. You can read and vote up until December 7th. Read and vote!
Support the ANR Foundation with a gift in Terrie’s honor.
Use your voice to help us educate those in smoky places like Las Vegas! Use one of our comment cards every time you visit a smoky casino to let management know that your visit was ruined by secondhand smoke.