The Racial Ethnic Approach to Community Health, which is campaigning against tobacco smoke by making people aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke, was able to push for the enforcement of the Smoke-Free Air Act in poker arcades on Saipan last month.
Currently, almost 30 poker rooms are smoke-free, according to REACH project assistant Hee Jae Lee. That means about 5,300 people are no longer breathing in secondhand smoke.
While there is a law banning indoor smoking, Lee said that compliance and enforcement was low.
“Patrons of poker rooms were exposed to secondhand smoke. We have provided education about the law and about the deadly effects of secondhand smoke to bars, hotels, and poker rooms. We especially encourage the bars to ban smoking completely for the sake of their customers and their employees, though many of them are exempt from the law,” she added.
As part of the solution and to assist in upholding the law, REACH first came up with frequently-asked-questions booklet to provide clarity regarding the law for the enforcers, establishment staff and the community. Secondly, an online system was created where violations are reported and addressed.
“These solutions were crucial in ensuring that people are aware of the law and that there are measures in place to enforce the law,” Lee said.
“We have provided education about the law and about the deadly effects of secondhand smoke to bars, hotels, and poker rooms,” she added.
While education was key in getting establishments to understand and comply with the Smoke-Free Air law, the REACH campaign found the importance of creating a system that will allow people to report violations.
According to the REACH findings, another contributing factor that helped increase compliance with the law was that poker room attendants became unexpectedly vigilant in reporting smoking.
The REACH Anti-Tobacco Program ended last Sept. 30 but a sustainability plan has been written and approved by the CNMI Department of Public Health Services.
The REACH Anti-Tobacco program recommends that dissemination of tobacco media communication messages, Smoke-Free Air law educational outreach and enforcement signage will be continuously undertaken to promote the program. The Bureau of Environmental Health will provide personnel to assist with enforcement.
“Because of the REACH program, more poker room employees and patrons are protected from exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Rebecca Robles, administrator of Non-Communicable Disease Bureau.