Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stop Smoking: A Den of Addiction in California's Casinos

I was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester last week for their annual Tobacco Conference. One of the presenters said that being in California is a such different world because of the laws about smoking in public areas. I guess those of us that live in California are spoiled and don't realize it. California was the first state to require that all businesses including restaurants and bars to be smoke free. It's been so long now that I don't notice that there isn't any smoke until I go to someplace where there is smoke.

Last night for Cinco de Mayo, some friends and I went to the local casino, which are exempt from California's smoking law. As soon as we walked in the door, I could smell the smoke. As I looked around, I didn't see that many people smoking and was surprised at how strong the smell was anyway. Until we walked by the bar, where almost every patron was smoking, drinking and playing video poker, what a den of addiction. When nicotine hits the brain, it activates the pleasure pathway and the release of dopamine. It heightens the external cues, which reinforces its use. The bar patrons had every sense simulated from the drinking, smoking, the noise from the slot machines, and the lights and bright colors every where. Over a quarter of all smokers are alcoholics and a heavy smoker is 10 times more likely to be an alcoholic than a nonsmoker. The reinforcement to continue addictive behavior is strong in that environment. Unfortunately these dens of addiction are more interested in the monies from the drinkers/smokers/gamblers instead of being interested in their health.

I left the casino, sick to my stomach, with a headache and my clothes stinking of stale cigarette smoke. I don't plan on returning as long as the smoke remains.

VJ Sleight, Queen of Quitting

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