Las Vegas Sun

May 19, 2019

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Worker who campaigned to ban casino smoking dies of cancer

Cheryl Rose

Tiffany Brown

Cheryl Rose was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in June 2008 and worked in casinos in Las Vegas for 22 years. Rose died last week.

Protest for Smoke-Free Gaming

60-year-old Cheryl Rose has never smoked, but she has Stage 4 lung cancer from the second-hand smoke in the casino where she worked for 22 years. She's now working with groups like Smoke-Free Gaming to fight for the right to a smoke-free workplace. Smoke-Free Gaming came to Las Vegas to protest the opening of CityCenter's casino Aria, which is a LEED-certified "green" building but still allows smoking.

Cheryl Rose, a casino worker who helped mount a brief campaign to ban smoking in Nevada casinos, died last week after a two-year battle with lung cancer.

Rose passed away April 20 at her daughter's home in Illinois, where she had moved to participate in that state's government-sponsored health insurance program.

An otherwise healthy woman with no previous health problems or any family history of cancer, Rose's doctors first diagnosed her with asthma before X-rays of her fluid-filled lungs confirmed that she had stage 4 lung cancer.

A few months ago, Rose participated in anti-smoking rallies in Las Vegas and appeared in a public service video urging casinos to ban smoking. She was also exercising daily and hiking frequently at Red Rock, her husband David Rose said today. She declined rapidly after the cancer spread to her liver and brain and she began radiation treatment, he said.

A few weeks before her death, Rose filed a workers compensation claim in Nevada with the assistance of a lung cancer specialist who said Rose's cancer was caused by her long-term exposure to smoke on the job. That claim, like the few others that have been filed by Nevada casino workers over the years, was rejected on the basis of a 1992 Nevada Supreme Court case.

The 1992 case arose from a workers compensation claim filed by a similarly healthy worker at a Lake Tahoe casino who developed breathing problems after many years as a pit boss. While the state determined that the man's health problem resulted from inhaling second-hand smoke on the job, a majority of justices concluded that second-hand smoke-related illnesses aren't covered by the state's workers compensation law because they aren't considered an occupational disease specific to the casino industry the way that black lung disease is inextricably linked with mining.

In spite of the frequent presence of smoke in casinos and the associated health risks, Nevada's workers compensation system could go bankrupt if workers were entitled to financial compensation for smoke-related problems, one of the justices said.

A memorial service for Rose will be held Sunday at Green Valley Ranch, one of her previous employers.

In a previous interview with Sun, Cheryl Rose declined to name the property or its owner, Station Casinos, so as not to blame any single employer for the presence of second-hand smoke. She bore no animosity toward the company, where she spent 22 years, most recently as a slot manager.

Rose is survived by two brothers, two sisters, two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Rose's ashes will be buried in Las Vegas, next to her first husband.

"All of her friends are in Vegas," David Rose said.

While her immediate family is scattered across Illinois, Florida, California and Arizona, Rose's work family is concentrated at Station Casinos, where she "touched the lives of a lot of people," he said.

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