Rhode Island Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio has been under fire following his comments where he rejected a proposed bill to end casino smoking. Instead, Ruggerio put the blame on the employees, saying that they ‘knew’ when they applied for the job.
State Representative Teresa A. Tanzi (D) and Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, have introduced a legislation to remove the exemption granted to Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino and Bally’s Tiverton Casino from the requirement of a smoke-free workplace as outlined in the Public Health and Workplace Safety Act.
Ruggerio was asked about this proposed legislation during his appearance on the 100th episode of the Rhode Island Report podcast on Wednesday.
“I mean, look, those people took those jobs knowing that there was smoking up there,” Ruggerio said.
“Now, all of a sudden, there’s a small group that feels that it’s not good for their health. I mean, they could wear a mask. They can work in an area where they don’t permit smoking. So I think the adjustment has to be made, not legislatively, but between the workers and Bally’s.”
The 74-year-old Democrat argued that the state would lose revenue if the legislation became law.
“We will lose, without a doubt, one third of our revenue if we initiate nonsmoking,” Ruggerio said.
Vanessa Baker, co-leader of Casino Employees Against Smoking Effects (CEASE) Rhode Island, called Ruggerio’s comments a “slap in the face” for many hardworking Rhode Islanders.
“No one should be forced to breathe secondhand smoke while on the job, period,” said Baker, according to The Boston Globe. “For the Senate president to blame casino workers for ‘agreeing’ to this job is a slap in the face to the hundreds of workers who are the backbone of the casino industry.”
Representative Tanzi brought up a recent poll that was conducted in New Jersey and showed a majority of New Jersey residents agreed to ban smoking inside the casino.
Representative William W. O’Brien (D) was also asked whether a smoking prohibition would result in a casino revenue decrease. He did not believe so.
CEASE said 21 states have implemented a smoking ban in casinos including Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“It is shameful that Rhode Island is the only remaining state in our region that allows smoking inside casinos,” Baker said. “We have a bipartisan majority of the State House in support of our legislation to end indoor smoking to protect workers, and we urge leadership to bring the bills for a vote.”
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