Casino Smoking Battle Stalls

Article excerpt

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - Looking to avoid a legal fight to force a smoking ban in Oregon's nine tribal casinos, the American Lung Association of Oregon has withdrawn its demand that Gov. Ted Kulongoski impose such a prohibition and has fired the lawyer behind its now-abandoned strategy.

The course reversal comes two weeks after the association's Portland lawyer, John DiLorenzo, sent a letter on the association's behalf calling on the governor to extend to the casinos a statewide smoking ban in place since January for non-tribal bars and taverns.

Despite the American Lung Association of Oregon's move, a spokeswoman said Kulongoski still plans to speak with leaders of Oregon's nine federally represented tribes about ensuring that casino workers and visitors are protected as much as possible from second-hand smoke.

In a letter made public Tuesday, the association said its mission "was misrepresented" by DiLorenzo; rather than "demand action," the Lung Association intended "to make an inquiry" about the governor's support for ending smoking in the casinos.

In a separate correspondence made available by the governor's office, Lung Association executive director Dana Kaye informed DiLorenzo that the organization was no longer retaining him or his firm.

Kaye said she still believes the tribes should consider banning smoking in their casinos to protect patrons' and workers' health from the ill effects of second hand smoke.

But she said the association did not agree with DiLorenzo's approach.

"He was threatening legal action, and I didn't want that to happen," she said. "I did not want to threaten the governor with a lawsuit."

DiLorenzo said he has never suggested that anyone other than the state of Oregon sue the tribes if they refuse to adopt the smoking ban.

"And I haven't even suggested the governor sue the tribes. I have just suggested that the governor enforce the (state) compact (with the tribes)," he said. "My goal is to encourage the governor to do the right thing, which is to use his authority under the compacts to end smoking in the casinos."

DiLorenzo's law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, represents the Oregon Restaurant Association. …