LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — Twin River Casino employees are asking lawmakers to pass a bill that would prohibit smoking in gaming facilities statewide.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi, would remove the exemption for casinos in the state’s law that bans smoking in workplaces.

“Casino workers are Rhode Islanders, parents, caregivers, taxpayers and human beings, and they deserve the same protections as everyone else in our state,” Tanzi said. “It is fundamentally wrong to say that no one should be exposed secondhand smoke in the workplace, but carve out an exception that leaves one group of workers not only unprotected, but in fact, bathed in smoke every day.”

“There’s no excuse for continuing to endanger their health, and we need to pass this bill to let them breathe safely like everyone else,” she continued.

Tanzi’s bill has the support of Laborers International Union of North American Local 271, which represents the vast majority of Rhode Island’s casino employees.

Lynn Dupre, a former Twin River employee, claims she was suffering from the constant exposure to secondhand smoke.

Dupre decided to take a pay cut and endure a longer commute to the Tiverton Casino shortly after it opened in hopes that the facility’s new ventilation system would improve her overall health.

The change did help in the beginning, she said, but it didn’t last long.

“About six months later, after working 40 hours every week with people blowing smoke into my face, the smoke started taking its toll again, even with better ventilation,” Dupre said. “Simply put, there is absolutely no way to have a smoking casino which is not harmful to its employees’ health.”

Both casinos were forced to close back in 2020 when the pandemic first hit, but were allowed to reopen a few months later with safety precautions in place, including prohibiting smoking indoors.

Dupre said her health improved drastically during that time. But soon after the casinos lifted the smoking ban for designated gaming floors, she said her nagging cough returned.

In order to preserve her health, Dupre decided to quit last month after eight years on the job.

Linda Jabrin, a blackjack dealer, explained that patrons were generally cooperative throughout the pandemic and had no problem stepping outside to smoke.

“Let me ask a question. How many of you smoke or have a close family member or friend who smokes? Do they smoke in your house or do they go outside?” she asked. “COVID has sent all smokers outside and most are happy to do so still.”

Casinos in Massachusetts currently prohibit patrons from smoking indoors, as do most gaming facilities in Connecticut.

Tanzi’s bill was held for further study last month.

12 News reached out to Twin River regarding the legislation but has not yet heard back.

Rhode Island became the 19th state in the country Wednesday to legalize recreational marijuana. It’s unclear at this time whether patrons would be allowed to smoke cannabis inside the state’s casinos.