MESQUITE, Nev. — Mesquite City Council members were persuaded Wednesday that a proposed ban on smoking in public places would have a negative financial impact on the city.
Council heard arguments for and against the initiative at a public hearing on the financial impact of the proposal on the city’s coffers. City Council chambers were nearly filled, with half of the room donning blue shirts in support of the initiative.
“I, for the life of me, under no circumstances, say that this would be a financial benefit to the city,” said councilman George Rapson, echoing the sentiments shared by several council members at the meeting. “Hearing all of the comments from the casinos, there could only be some negative impact.”
If the Mesquite residents championing the Mesquite Clean Air Initiative gain enough signatures on a petition, the question of whether the city should ban smoking in public places would be put to the voters in November. The proposal would ban smoking in public places in Mesquite, including casinos, bars, tobacco stores, bus stops and outdoor playgrounds.
While many community members voiced their opinion about how harmful secondhand smoking was to health and comfort in the casinos, several council members reminded people that the purpose of the public hearing was to hear comments about how the proposal would impact city finances through the taxes local businesses pay. Mayor Allan Litman even had to demand proponents of the initiative to stop booing people who shared differing opinions than them.
Christine Picior, a member of Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air, said the City Council and mayor were biased against the proposal for mentioning how it would harm the city and local businesses.
The Mesquite Citizens for Clean Indoor Air has been coming to City Council for nearly seven years without getting it to take action, Picior said.
“We have been educating the community and the council on the serious public health problems of secondhand smoke. The community is clearly getting how dangerous it is, but the City Council wouldn’t even hear it. … They have other interests in mind.”
Other members of the advocacy group spoke about how they felt discriminated against because they couldn’t go into casinos without breathing heavy smoke, which they said seriously harms their health.
There were also a couple of investors, a casino boss and a smoker who spoke at the public hearing about why they would oppose the plan to ban smoking in public places.
Greg Lee, CEO of Eureka Casino Hotel in Mesquite, spoke about his fears of how a smoking ban would harm his business and the Mesquite economy. Lee said he provided models to the City Council about what would happen if a smoking ban caused gaming revenue to drop by 12 percent, 20 percent and 30 percent.
“Truthfully, all of these (models) are devastating. They’re devastating to jobs, they’re devastating to our business, and we believe they could be very, very devastating to the overall stability of the Mesquite economy.”
Speaking on behalf of the employees at Eureka Casino Hotel, Lee said the proposal would harm them because it would put their jobs at risk. People wanting to smoke in casinos will take their business to Las Vegas if this proposal is adopted.
Casinos like the Eureka have helped stimulate the economy in Mesquite by tens of millions of dollars, Rapson said.
Despite the big-money opposition to the proposal, Picior said they will continue to fight for the initiative to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of Mesquite.
“My people have been out there in 100-degree weather collecting signatures for hours,” Picior said. “They’re passionate about it and we’re not going to stop fighting for this.”
- Read the full ordinance proposal: Mesquite Clean Indoor Air Ordinance of 2018 proposal
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