Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smoking bans & casino workers in Pennsylvania

1,771 Casino Employees in PA Will Die from Secondhand-Smoke Illnesses, New PACT Study Says.” So claims the headline of a press release issued by the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco (PACT). It's dated October 15, 2007, and provides a media resource list; Joy Blankley Meyer, Executive Director of PACT; Deborah P. Brown, Vice President, Community Outreach and Advocacy, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic; and James Repace of Repace Associates.

Of course, the “almost 1,800” won't all die at once. Reading the full text you find out that it will take 40 years, at 44 non-smokers a year, for those non-smoking casino workers to die from exposure to secondhand smoke. But, that's still a lot of non-smokers dying from that nasty old secondhand smoke. If, in fact, they were non-smokers.

According to the October 15 press release: “Within the next few years, the five currently licensed casinos will employ approximately 10,000 people. Of those 10,000 people, 1,771 nonsmokers — or 44 nonsmokers per year — will die during the subsequent 40 years specifically as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

But, did those casinos actually hire only non-smokers? That's the inference of the statement.

I came across this item while looking for information on a claim made on another anti-smoker site. The claim was that “six out of every 10,000 nonsmoking Pennsylvania casino workers will die each year because of exposure to secondhand smoke.” The claim referred to a study conducted by “internationally renowned secondhand smoke scientist James Repace.”

So, I followed the link to the study. And, sure enough, the Repace study concluded:
“SHS-induced heart disease and lung cancer will cause an estimated 6 Pennsylvania casino workers' deaths annually per 10 000 at risk, 5-fold the death rate from Pennsylvania mining disasters. Casinos should not be exempt from smoke-free workplace laws.”

Only six non-smokers a year? But, that's only 240 non-smokers who will die from secondhand smoke over the next 40 years. That's a far cry from 1,771 claimed in the press release from PACT. And, even the 240 non-smoker deaths over the next 40 years is predicated on the assumption that all employees of casinos in Pennsylvania are non-smokers.

So, just how many people did those five casinos employ? They obviously weren't up to 10,000 in 2007.Time for another Google search.

I didn't find the employment figures for the Pennsylvania casinos. But I did find a number of links to the “1,771 non-smoking casino workers” who were about to die from secondhand smoke.

But, wait a minute. One link was a little different; it claimed the 1,800 deaths may have been over-stated.

It seems Jacob Sullum over at had noticed a discrepancy between the October 15 press release and a second press release issued only three days later by the same bunch of anti-smoker fanatics (including the internationally renowned secondhand smoke scientist, James Repace).

The second press release was dated October 18, 2007. In three days, employment at the casinos had increased to 12,000. The additional 2,000 were, apparently, non-smokers. But, don't be concerned; smokers are becoming used to discrimination in employment.

But, the second press release was claiming only 300 dead non-smoking casino workers over the next forty years, or eight non-smoking deaths annually. In only three days they managed to save 1,500 non-smokers from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. And, they did it with the stroke of a pen.

The fact is that both press releases were almost identical, except for the numbers.

In the first (Oct 15), James Repace is quoted as saying: “Twenty times OSHA’s Significant Risk Level will eventually kill 44 casino workers every year. This is comparable to the total number of deaths from coal mine disasters in 2006 – and we all appreciate that coal mining can be a dangerous job.”

In the second (Oct 18), the Repace quote is:
“Twenty Seven times OSHA’s Significant Risk Level will eventually kill 8 casino workers every year. By comparison, between 1995 and 2002, 16 miners died in Pennsylvania mine disasters, or about 2 per year. We all appreciate that coal mining can be a dangerous job,”

And, although PACT, the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic and Repace Associates issued a new press release, with revised numbers, the original, with the gross exaggerations, is still being widely circulated on the web.

And, by the way, did you think to look at the date on the Repace study I quoted from earlier. It was apparently published in the American Journal of Public Health in August, 2009. In fact, the AJPH indicates the study was published online, ahead of print, on June 18, 2009. It contains a similar reference to Pennsylvania coal miners as the quote attributed to Repace from the PACT press releases.

But, the PACT press releases were issued in October, 2007, and were based on a “new study”, presumably by Repace. Do these guys get extra credit for publishing the same “scientific” study in multiple journals?

Go ahead. Ask me again why I refer to the rantings of the anti-smoker cult as bullshit and bafflegab.

1 comment:

Michael J. McFadden said...

Nicely researched and well-written as always Rambler! :)

I'd like to add a note though. Even IF we were inclined to take the nonsense numbers spewed out by Repace and his ilk as valid, there's an additional unstated assumption that they all depend on:

There can be NO progress in medical science over the next 40 years. *ALL* research must instantly grind to a halt. No cures, no improvements in detection, nothing, zip, natch, nada, zero.

Of course that's nonsense. But so are the numbers the Antismokers conjure up to terrorize people to begin with. Rambler, do you remember last November when the Atlantic City casinos asked for a one year extension before being forced to implement a total smoking ban (as opposed to the "mere" 75% ban they're currently struggling under)? The Antismoking crazies had their crowd so whipped up that they were screaming at the councilcritters, "You're handing us a DEATH SENTENCE!"

It's sad what the Antis have done to people's lives.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"