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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Casino Employee in NJ Wins Cancer Suit for Second-Hand Smoke Forecasting a New Wave in Litigation

An Atlantic City NJ casino card dealer employed at the Claridge Hotel who was exposed to second hand tobacco smoke was awarded workers' compensation benefits. NJ Judge Cosmo Giovinazzi awarded $150,00 for lost wages and medical benefits to a card dealer holding that second-hand tobacco smoke materially contributed to the employee's lung cancer.

Environmental tobacco smoke has long been associated with lung cancer. A survey of London casino workers indicated that most wanted their environments should be smoke-free. A recently published study by researchers at the University of Nevada revealed that casino floor workers are exposed to four times more tobacco smoke tham amy other workers increasing their risk of cradiovascular disease and lung cancer. Ventilation does not eliminate the poisonous toxins and chimcal components of secondhand smoking.

In The History of the War on Cancer , authored by Devra Davis, in a recent speech broadcast on Book-TV, expresses the urgent need for the removal of carcinogens, inluding tobacco, from the workplace and indicates the need to eliminate the causes.

The Surgeon General of the United States has stated two major observations:

"For the majority of American workers who smoke, cigarette smoking represents a greater cause of death and disability than their work environment." U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. The Health Consequences of Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1985 at p. 11.

"In those worksites where well-established disease outcomes occur, smoking control and reduction in exposure to hazardous agents are effective, compatible, and occasionally synergistic approaches to the reduction of disease for the individual worker ..." However, "asbestos exposure can increase the risk of developing lung cancer in both cigarette smokers and non-smokers." Id. at p. 13.

"Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cancer of the lung, larynx, oral cavity, and esophagus and is a contributory factor for cancer of the kidney, urinary bladder, and pancreas. These cancers will cause 278,700 of the estimated 910,000 new cancer cases in the United States during 1985 (ACS 1985), or 30.6 percent of the cancers occurring in the United States other than skin cancer. Exposures to agents in the workplace other than cigarette smoke will also cause some of these new cancers, and a number of cancers will result from the combined effects of cigarette smoking and carcinogenic exposures in the workplace." Id. at p. 101.

Approximately 30 percent of indoor workers in the United States are not covered by smoke-free workplace policies. Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke. Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing), including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide. Secondhand smoke has been designated as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has concluded the secondhand smoke is an occupational carcinogen.

Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.

Conventional air cleaning systems can remove large particles, but not the smaller particles or gases found in secondhand smoke. Routine operation of a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system can distribute secondhand smoke throughout a building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the preeminent U.S. body on ventilation issues, has concluded that ventilation technology cannot be relied on to control health risks from secondhand smoke exposure. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006.

Already an area of new litigation is that of Suing the Smoker Next Door. Ironically, in a lawsuit against their neighbors, tenants allege that the common hallways of their NY apartment building smell like "a Las Vegas casino," jeopardizing the health of those who live and work in building.

Workers' Compensation has been the genius of many lawsuits and one could easily predict that a new wave of litigation will be third-party civl actions generated against building property owners and those who are responsible to maintain the premises including: management companies, co-op and condominium associations.

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