Vincent Rennich, a former casino games supervisor at the Atlantic City Tropicana Casino, is ANR's 2007 Smokefree Hero of the Year. Vinny has worked in Atlantic City casinos for the past 25 years. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. His doctor advised him to quit smoking...Vinny has never smoked a day in his life.
During New Jersey's recent smokefree legislative battle, in which casinos are the only workplace from the state's smokefree indoor air law, Vinny spoke up. Casino workers were being left behind as second-class citizens.
"Casinos are always asking what else they can do to make money. They never ask what additional steps they can take to protect the health of their employees," Rennich said.
Together with Dr. Robert Zlotnik, CPO of Atlantic Prevention Resources and an expert on addictive behaviors including substance abuse and gambling, Vinny helped get other casino workers involved. Because New Jersey's smokefree law repealed preemption, Atlantic City was allowed to consider a local smokefree law that would close the casino loophole. Although the city has not yet enacted a strong local law, both the city and state are reconsidering the issue because of the advocacy of hundreds of casino employees who have embraced this matter not only as a health issue, but also a moral issue.
This spring, Vinny was fired by the Tropicana for what he feels was retaliation for speaking up and engaging others in the right to breathe clean air. The good news is that lung surgery was successful, and Vinny is now cancer-free. Secondhand smoke cost Vinny part of his lung. Speaking up about it cost him his job. Let's not let him down.
Vinny's story is at the core of why we as advocates do this work. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for having the courage to speak up, for inspiring others to get involved in policy advocacy, and for helping the nation move toward a smokefree norm for all workers. You can read more about Vinny's story on our web site and at http://smokefreecasinos.com/, the website built by Robert Zlotnik in support of the smokefree Atlantic City campaign.
You can reach Vinny by email through the www.smokefreecasinos.com website. While you are there, sign the petition for smokefree casinos. The best way to show appreciation to Vinny is by supporting efforts for comprehensive local and state smokefree protections that don't leave any workers behind, whether that be in bars, casinos, small workplaces, hotels, or factories. The right to breathe is a human right.
Congratulations to Vinny, our 2007 Smokefree Hero of the Year.
Casino workers typically suffer high occupational exposure to secondhand smoke, and many communities and states are now beginning to expand smokefree air laws to protect these workers. Numerous gambling establishments, in fact, are already 100% smokefree and the list is growing all the time. See ANR's list of 100% Smokefree Casinos and Gambling Venues.