Air clears at Colorado casinos

The air in Colorado’s casinos cleared in the first month of a smoking ban, with the levels of harmful air-pollution particles dropping 92 percent, according to a new state report.

„It’s what we’ve seen in other states — pretty dramatic results once the smoke-free laws pass,“ said Jodi Kopke, a spokeswoman for the state health department’s Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership.

Colorado’s smoke-free law passed in 2006, but casinos were exempt until Jan. 1, 2008.

For the new study, researchers used personal air-quality monitors that measured the concentration of particles collected by a tube at neck level.

„These are the small particles, which are especially dangerous because people inhale them very deeply,“ Kopke said.

In 2006, then U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said that secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer, among other health problems, and that there is „no risk-free level of secondhand smoke.“

For the Colorado study, researchers measured air quality in December and January in the gaming rooms and nonsmoking restaurants of four unidentified casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

In gaming rooms, levels of small particulates dropped from 50 to 3 milligrams per cubic meter — from „unhealthy“ to „safe“ levels, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

In nonsmoking restaurants in casinos, particulate levels dropped from 37 to 4 milligrams per cubic meter.

Secondhand smoke causes about 53,000 deaths a year in the United States, Ned Calonge, chief medical officer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wrote in a statement.

„This study confirms how quickly and effectively the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act can help protect the health of workers and customers,“ Calonge said.

Chris Daniels, a musician who plays at casinos around the world, said that the air quality in casinos here, even before the ban, didn’t bother him as much as it does in Europe, where air filters are rare.

„Now, I see this new group of people, nonsmokers, coming out to casinos in Colorado,“ Daniels said. „I think there’s actually more people up there right now because they’re nonsmoking.“

Last month, the Colorado Gaming Association reported a 3.6 percent drop in January revenue from January 2007, less than the 10 to 15 percent drop projected from the gaming ban.

Industry officials said the lower-than-expected decline in revenues was due to the fact that in January 2007, heavy snows prevented gamblers from reaching the mountains.