Reno Parents, Can We Clear the Air?

Guest Author: Steven Fine, Reno resident since 1969

Does it ever feel like we’re living in some kind of weird Groundhog Day – but for the whole year? I know so many parents who spend every day doing the same (though admittedly, very admirable) thing, over and over: keeping their kids engaged and happy, helping with school work, meal prepping with mostly healthy choices, applying lots of hand sanitizer and doing their best to keep bills paid and a roof over their heads.

But this Groundhog Day idea is making me think about how we can all more effectively go beyond our own personal bubbles. Maybe it’s the global pandemic-inspired quarantine that has me thinking about this, but I feel like many of you may be able to relate. 

As a regular reader of Reno Dads, I’ve found great positive tips and proactive ideas about making my bubble a better place. But recently, because of a project I’m working on, I’m compelled to ask if my fellow readers are stepping outside of their comfort zones and making a difference in other folks’ lives: Specifically, I’m talking about the men and women who live here and work daily in indoor environments where smoking is still permitted. 

Part of my job at the Nevada Cancer Coalition is to manage the state’s largest-ever campaign to educate Nevada’s teens about the terrible harm of vaping e-cigarettes. Because of this landmark bill passed in February 2019, our kids are lucky to have a group of legislators who took our health to task and passed real laws to curb this epidemic before every one of our kids becomes addicted to nicotine. (Thank you, Senator Ratti!)

Another component of my gig is to help run a smaller-budget – yet also dear to my fatherly heart – project called Smoke Free Truckee Meadows. Our small-but-mighty group of health and community leaders is working to eliminate smoking once and for all in local gaming establishments, bars and nightclubs. 

We’re not trying to outlaw smoking by any means; we’re simply trying to encourage our local leaders to close a gap in the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. While the NCIAA ensures smoke-free air in many workplaces, smoking is still permitted in gaming areas of casinos and in age-restricted stand-alone bars. These aren’t just social hangouts; they are where nearly 40,000 Nevadans earn a living. Yes, there are that many people working in smoke-filled establishments in the Truckee Meadows right now, and we believe their health should not be jeopardized simply because they have to go to work. 

Most of these people, if given a choice, would choose a smoke-free workplace in a heartbeat — but they simply don’t have the option to voice their preferences. Because when someone must choose between their health and putting food on the table for themselves and/or their families by way of their casino job, full stomachs usually win out. 

As Dr. Iain Buxton, Cardiovascular Pharmacologist and Professor of Pharmacology at UNR, says:

“The science here is clear. We’re exposing people who don’t want to be smokers. We are putting them at risk. Some things should be compromised, others should not. This might be one of those things that shouldn’t be a compromise. Most of us have been educated to recognize that tobacco use or exposure to secondhand smoke is a risk. And yet there are nearly 40,000 people in our community who are exposed at work when all the rest of us are protected. If we don’t educate people to understand these risks, then we’re not doing our job.”

When Dr. Buxton talks about “all the rest of us,” I feel like he’s talking about you and me — those who may not be among the 40,000 folks who are at risk daily. You’ve likely never even thought of it — and why would you? We rarely step outside of our own bubbles, and taking a stand against smoking in these establishments is probably way outside of our normal daily parenting comfort zones. 

But I’m not asking you to take up a Sharpie and create a giant picket sign that you’ll wave as you march up and down Virginia Street. Rather, I’m asking that you take two minutes to let your local elected officials know there is a real problem that is gravely affecting the lives of our neighbors. You see, what I’ve learned in the months since we’ve launched this initiative is that the sheer voice of the people can make real change in our community. Your voice, when combined with those of like-minded leaders, can cause our politicians to listen and, hopefully, turn your wishes into policy for the better — for the healthier. 

I’ll admit, sharing my wishes with the city council has rarely been a thing for me. But it’s becoming more so because a) it’s way easier than I thought it would be; and b) I really want to have an impact in my day-to-day life. I want to set an example — as a father, as a resident of Northern Nevada, as one of the lucky employees who does not have to endure dangerous secondhand smoke when I go to work on a daily basis. 

So what about that voice? Perhaps now more than ever, people are mindful of places that take extra precautions with COVID-19, and they’re patronizing them in larger numbers. In a culture dominated by social media and review sites, establishments that make the smoke-free move could see a significant advantage over locations that don’t enact similar protections. 

The Truckee Meadows is an ideal place to be the first in Nevada to support clean air for everyone. People who travel to Northern Nevada expect to experience unparalleled outdoor recreation. They come for the healthy lifestyle, scenic vistas, and for the incredible nightlife. What better way to polish off this amazing recipe than to eliminate the smoky and stinky Reno 911 image once and for all? 

Let’s all be a part of creating that image. Let’s refine it until the haze is gone and our shirts don’t stink after five minutes in a casino. Let’s take two minutes to make a change. 

If you’re interested in learning more about clearing the air around us, please visit We’ve put together resources there where you can learn about the dangers of secondhand smoke, get involved, and find smoke-free establishments that have taken the initiative to protect their employees. We even have a place where you can input your zip code, which brings up a list of your elected officials — and a sample message you can send their way. And we have set up a petition that you can easily sign and share. 

I have a feeling 40,000 of your neighbors may just thank you for it.

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