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April 18, 2015

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Taxpayer-funded ad that backs smoking ban raises questions


A screengrab is shown from an anti-smoking ad airing in Southern Nevada.

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A commercial playing on TV and radio in Southern Nevada rattles off a list of U.S. cities — Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Dallas — and asks what they have in common. The answer: a complete indoor smoking ban.

“The greatest cities in the world have clean indoor air,” the commercial states. “It’s time we catch up. It’s time for Vegas to not allow smoking indoors. It’s time for Vegas to be smoke free.”

The ad — paid for by a Centers for Disease Control grant — never specifically mentions legislation, but it clearly aims to raise support for an all-encompassing indoor smoking ban in Las Vegas, where smoking is outlawed in many places but is permitted in casinos, bars and, thanks to the 2011 Legislature, some restaurants.

“The ultimate goal would definitely be to expand the Clean Indoor Air Act,” said Nikki Antos, Southern Nevada coordinator for Evolvement, an anti-smoking advocacy group that’s one of the ad’s sponsors.

Government-funded anti-smoking ads are common. Tobacco settlement money and health department grants regularly pay for media campaigns that warn people about the dangers of smoking. But those ads typically stress the health implications of smoking, such as its link to cancer or effect on children. Rarely do such campaigns push for specific changes to law.

In fact, the use of taxpayer money for lobbying is prohibited by the Health and Human Services Department. How, then, can the ad promote an expansion of the Clean Indoor Air Act?

The loophole is in its language.

“Lobbying by the CDC’s standard is making a direct request to lawmakers for a change,” said Malcolm Ahlo of the Tobacco Control Program at the Southern Nevada Health District, which administers the grant that paid for the ad. “If the commercial said, ‘Hey legislators, expand the Clean Indoor Air Act,’ or ‘Vote no on 571,’ that would be lobbying.”

Because the ad avoids the words “legislator” or “bill,” it passes muster. The campaign’s website,, also makes clear: “This campaign is not advocating for any particular piece of legislation and is solely focused on educating the public.”

Still, the advocates concede that the commercial pushes for a specific outcome, namely a stricter Clean Indoor Air Act.

And although that’s legal, not everyone thinks it’s right. Ahlo and Antos said their groups have received complaints from people who are angry that their tax dollars are financing such a campaign. In other words, Nevadans who enjoy lighting up in a bar or tourists who come to Las Vegas to puff a cigar at a slot machine are paying for the commercial that promotes outlawing what they enjoy.

Ahlo says that’s how the system works.

“The beauty of our taxes is you don’t decide how they are spent,” Ahlo said. “Someone might say ‘I don’t want my tax money to pay for welfare or go to the war because I don’t agree with it,’ but you can’t decide that.”

The Health Department received $14.6 million in federal grants to be spent over two years for anti-tobacco and smoking cessation campaigns. Money went to various community groups, such as the American Lung Association, Evolvement and the UNLV Nursing School, which used the money to launch a campaign to make the entire college campus smoke free.

About $5 million was spent on the “Right to Breathe” campaign, of which the commercial is a part. Money also paid for radio and print ads.

Nevada voters approved a smoking ban in November 2006 that outlawed smoking in all enclosed public workplaces except casino gaming areas and bars that don’t serve food.

Tavern owners launched several efforts to overturn the law and succeeded this year; the Legislature decided to allow both smoking and food service in adults-only bars, or within family restaurants if the smoking area is enclosed. Anti-smoking advocates worry that the law will be eroded further.

“We do get complaints about the tax money, but tobacco prevention has been extremely effective,” Antos said. “What people don’t understand is, not only are they paying for tobacco prevention programs, but whether they smoke or not, they are paying for Medicare and Medicaid for people with lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.”

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  1. What part of "private property" and "free market" is a problem? If you don't want to be around smokers, then don't patronize those private businesses that cater to them.

    And casinos will respond to the market. Just try to find a smoking poker room. I know of only two (though there are probably more) but the vast majority and the ones that I like to go to because of the games and limits they spread don't allow it.

  2. The dirty little secret is the government does not want anyone to actually quit smoking because the government is addicted to the tobacco tax revenue.

  3. "Ahlo and Antos said their groups have received complaints from people who are angry that their tax dollars are financing such a campaign" Good. I am glad they're angry. Now they understand the disgust those of us who VOTED for the ban in restaurants feel when the voice of the people, the MAJORITY who voted in the ban, have their voice overriden by government.

  4. Don't pull that old, tired "private property" argument out of the hat: That's the very same argument that was used to bar blacks from hotels back in the old days.

    And "free market?" Really? What's "free" about second-hand smoke causing more than 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 deaths from asthma and 21,400 deaths from lung cancer every year? (see for the actual study results).

    This one is pure common sense: You have no right to damage my health with your second-hand smoke, period.

  5. Jeff Case "You have no right to damage my health with your second-hand smoke, period."

    I drive an electric car and you have no right to damage my health with your toxic fumes coming from your car. Where does it end?

  6. Jeff,

    Don't patronize a smoking establishment and I won't damage your health. Simple, really.

    But if you come into my house, you play by my rules.

  7. Where's the counter-ad that rattles off the same list of cities and asks, "What do these cities not have in common with Las Vegas? None of them relies on vice industries as its life blood." I'd bet very good money that alcohol legally dispensed in Las Vegas businesses has killed more non-drinkers than second-hand smoke has killed non-smokers.

  8. If smoking is banned will Nikki Antos, Southern Nevada coordinator for Evolvement and Malcolm Ahlo of the Tobacco Control Program at the Southern Nevada Health District become unemployed????

    "The Health Department received $14.6 million in federal grants to be spent over two years for anti-tobacco and smoking cessation campaigns."

    This is why they do not want people to actually stop smoking. No tobacco revenue, no federal gravy train dollars. This whole thing is a scam.

  9. I'm still waiting to see a death certificate that says cause of death: Second hand smoke.

  10. Many gamblers smoke, especially if they drink. While I'm not a smoker, I have many friends who visit from Nannyfornia and think it's the greatest thing to be able to smoke indoors while blowing their trust funds on roulette. This is their choice, as it is everyone's choice to patronize a business that allows smoking. This ban would be a terrible move from a financial perspective.

  11. This topic has been done to death here, over and over.

    For the roots of this and other modern anti-smoking campaigns have a look @

    This is also evidence of the federal government's REAL attitude about balancing the federal budget.

    For the Chicken Littles out there trying to make the rest of us live by their rules, there's some truth to be found @

    "Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98" is an *American* study published in the British Medical Journal that seems to not have been popular here -- "Conclusions The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed."

    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from your government. I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan

  12. Those who don't smoke should NOT visit places where smoking is allowed. Casinos or businesses can decide one way or another and get the business of one or the other.

    Find something better to do !! Why do people need this crap anyway?

  13. My personal opinion, as a non-smoker, is that this will not happen here. All of the cities mentioned are world-class cities and have no indoor smoking anywhere. However, their economies aren't soley based on tourism and, more importantly, gambling. If people have to get up from their machines to go outside and smoke, that is not a good thing as far as the business in this state in concerned.

  14. If you don't smoke and don't like being around smoke then don't go where smoking is allowed. Quit trying to tell others how to live their lives. Most of you that try to force your living standards upon others are miserable unhappy people. People like you are why this country has gone down the crapper, with your nanny state mentality. Instead of constantly worrying about what others are doing, maybe you people should find something that makes you happy in life, if thats even possible. What get's me is the same folks that complain about this crap have nothing to say about OUR military using depleted uranium(toxic waste) in our ammunitions that is FAR DEADLIER then second hand smoke could ever be. Not only is it deadly for the civilians being blown to pieces by the ammunitions, it's also deadly for OUR soldiers who have to handle the ammunitions and load the ammunitions. Take a look at the birth defect rate from soldiers returning from any war of the past 10 years. It's absolutly sick. It's even sicker that our "LEADERS" know exactly what this stuff does. Instead of disposing of this depleted uranium in a responsible manner they decided to just dump the stuff all over the middle east where it will kill for hundreds of years into the future. And to think most of you support this genocidal government we are under. If only you guys spent a 1/10th of the time you guys spend complaining about smoking on something that really matters, the destruction of this once great nation.

  15. Those who wish to impose their standards upon others when in this regard are no different than those who wish to impose standards for what is an acceptable union between two people.

    One tends to be on the left, the other tends to be on the right, but they are exactly the same type of mentality with no understanding of the words "liberty" and "responsibility."

  16. Your "private property" and your "free market" END at at my lungs and the air we all breathe and depend on for health and well being. Market forces DO NOT entitle property owners and businesses to poison the environmental commons with air toxics and carcinogens. Clean air, environmental health and safety is patriotic and all-American. Using right-wing ideology to justify poisoning the air with tobacco smoke is not.

  17. Desert_Vu,

    Why is it so hard for you and others who share your opinion to understand that you have the choice not to patronize establishments that don't allow smoking if you do not wish to be subject to the potential harm?

    It is *your* personal responsibility to take care of yourself, and not the job of anyone else. You do that by not entering into areas or circumstances that you feel are hazardous to you.

  18. Correction, you have the choice not to patronize establishments that allow smoking.

  19. Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Chantix and Nicoderm, fund the bans through their Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

    Many tax exempt political action committees (charities?) received millions to lobby for smoking bans from the RWJ Foundation. These bans are nothing but clever marketing strategy, with lots of highly publicized "sky is falling" hype, similar to gun control tactics;

    "Gun ownership disease"

    Tobacco control funding sources for "social change" to handle the "tobacco problem"

    Here are the Political Action Committees they support.

    Since current bans didn't help businesses, now they are being given grants to enforce their bans, admitting that bans don't help business.

    The bans are a resounding success, for Pfizer.

  20. Just another reason to stay home and gamble online...

  21. Lynn Johnson asks where does it end and the answer is when we stop rationalizing the harm we inflict on others because of selfishness or that "private" business should somehow be immune to being held responsible when it allows by inaction or by action harm to come to people.

  22. Ask your self this question, what is the amount of tax dollars, grants, etc..... that will be lost if everyone quit smoking?

    What will be the new revenue stream to replace those tax dollars?

  23. Martin9,

    I was wondering what your educational and work experience is that qualifies you to state for fact that the management running the Billion Dollar casinos in this town is so inept?

  24. Well...
    That would make those Hookah Lounges pretty darn boring.

  25. Since inhalation of tobacco smoke elevates CO (Carbon Monoxide) levels in the blood --

    Perhaps the anti-smoking propagandists would care to reveal the CO blood level changes they're experiencing while being exposed to second-hand smoking environments?

    : {

  26. I cant agree more with Martin9. And for all of the people on here who think revenue will decline in local bars because they dont allow smoking are just angry smokers. When the airlines banned smoking did leisure travelers stop taking vacations? No. As a long time casino employee I know how sick gamblers are and you can take their cigarettes, clothes, food and family and they will still sit there until they've lost everything. And the local bars affected by the smoking ban? Im pretty sure the economic decline that happened in 2007 caused the money to stop rolling into town and in turn into the locals pockets where it was unavailable to be spent in the local establishments. The smoking had NOTHING to do with local business decline the over the past few years. Breathing is not a choice.

  27. Plain and simple, if you don't like second hand smoke do not go to the place that allows smoking. This county has gone so soft. It's a bar if you don't want to have second hand smoke go to a smoke free bar. My god you hippes, stop making everyone else's life sad & miserable. I do not tell you how to live, so stop telling me how to live. I am a non smoker yet I am bright enough to know if I do not want to go to a smokey bar I just go to another bar. It's not like they are letting people smoke in a macdonald's!

  28. I am with GoBruins on this.... You anti crowd crack me up... I am a non smoker and it is not hard to stay away from places that allow smoking...

    The only places I go that do have any degree of that are bars and casinos... Coincidentally to places that feed vices that are just as bad for you as smoking can be... Bars serve alcohol and last time I checked drinking for a few hours at a bar doesn't exactly make you feel good... And casinos hit you in your wallet with my guess is physically that carries a degree of unhealthy stress... So I guess the claim here is "don't let your vice impede on mine, how dare you let you unhealthy decision get in the way of my unhealthy decisions"... LOL ...

    And trust me I am not some saint... I have been known to go to a bar or a casino on occasion, and I just expect that smoking will be part of the experience... I just can't imagine how much time you angry folks spend in these places to truly be affected by this... again just laughable...

  29. Put me with GoBruins. If a liberal doesn't like something they believe it should be banned for everyone. I grew up in a smoking home. You have a greater chance of slipping and breaking your neck in your bathtub taking a bath than you do of dying from second hand smoke.

  30. And yes, this is one of those rare days when I agree with SunJohn.

  31. "You have a greater chance of slipping and breaking your neck in your bathtub taking a bath than you do of dying from second hand smoke."

    bbtbrain -- check out that link in my first post. It's a scientific study proving you right, sort of, along those lines.

    "The healthists aren't protecting anyone. What they're protecting is a "right" for themselves that they've fashioned out of whole cloth. They're fighting to get invited to the party, then make the rules once they get there. They want the so-called "right" to be self-appointed nanny, mother, rule maker, and rule enforcer for everyone else. It isn't enough for the smoke-free crowd to merely embrace good habits themselves. They want everyone else to share those habits too -- by force if necessary. It isn't enough for them to simply avoid businesses that allow smoking. They want a king's fiat to make them smoke free, or shut them down." -- Radley Balko's testimony about the smoking ban before the District of Columbia City Council, online @

  32. These bans are based on fraud perpetrated by Johnson & Johnson and are unconstitutional! For instance, they deliberately skew the difference between "public place" which is privately owned and "public property" which is taxpayer funded. I could put up a "No Trespassing" sign above my legislatively forced "no smoking" sign. I choose who I cater to. I ALLOW the public to enter my privately owned business. They have no "right" to be there! Yet our legislators enact laws that take away our right to run our businesses as we see fit to. And owners are forced into servitude in an uncompensated taking of property rights for the preference of others who have nothing invested.