By ANGELA LEWIS
The Center of Disease Control changed the guidelines on Thursday, May 14 for wearing masks indoors to say that fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks indoors in most places. Rumors immediately began circulating throughout Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort that rules may change to allow smoking inside the casino once again.
Patrons that smoke constantly complain that they want to be able to smoke inside the buildings. Many employees and non-smoking patrons do not want to see smoking make a return to the indoor areas. Smokers have smoked outside since the pandemic began and it has provided what many customers say is a healthier environment.
North Carolina restaurants and bars banned smoking inside them on Jan. 2, 2010. Restaurants on the Qualla boundary followed the same ban. North Carolina says that the ban has saved them over 4 million dollars in health care costs over a ten-year period reducing everything from heart attacks to Emergency Room visits. Secondhand smoke has been proven to cause serious health issues such as heart disease and heart attacks. The Center for Disease Control statistics show that 2.5 million non-smokers have died since 1964 form secondhand smoke. Current Center for Disease Control statistics show that 14 percent of the United States population smokes cigarettes. Why should a minority percentage of the population control the rules for a majority of the population that does not smoke cigarettes? It is not really that inconvenient for a smoker to step outside before they light up.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has been a leader in promoting health and wellness. The efforts have been shown by the diligence of its health care workers in making sure that every member of the Tribe and its employees receive Covid vaccinations as quickly as the Tribe could get ample supply of the doses. The statistic that the Tsali long-term care facility had zero cases of COVID during this pandemic is a testament to their success.
Forcing Native, as well as non-Native employees, at the casino to tolerate second-hand smoke is a slap in the face to the preventive health-care services that the Tribe currently maintains. No Tribal employees or Cherokee Indian Hospital employees work in an environment where they must be subjected to second-hand smoke for eight hours a day. Employees and visitors must smoke outside or off-campus. Casino employees should be no different. They are members of our families and we do not want them to get sick by no fault of their own.
I urge the Tribal Casino Gaming Commission, Tribal Council members, and the EBCI Executive Branch to stand up for the health of their employees. Please ignore outside gaming consultants that put forward statistics to tell you that allowing smoking inside the casino is good for business. Per capita amounts show that this is simply untrue. Regardless, the bottom line should never take precedence over the health and well-being of our employees, Tribal members, and their families.
Please put yourself in the shoes of those hard-working employees who must strip their clothes off at the door when they get home because their family members greet them with “Go get a shower, you stink.”