President Clinton deepened his assault on cigarettes Saturday by outlawing smoking in federal buildings, but he backed off plans to banish smokers from government-owned doorways and courtyards.
“Americans who’ve made the choice not to use tobacco products should not be put at risk by those who choose to smoke,” the president said in his weekly radio broadcast.
Joined by Vice President Al Gore, Clinton signed an executive order giving agencies and facilities under executive-branch control one year to comply with the ban. More than 15 federal agencies already ban indoor smoking.
Gore cited a surgeon general’s report that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and other diseases in nonsmokers, increases children’s risk of respiratory infections and aggravates symptoms of asthma.
“Secondhand smoke isn’t just unpleasant. It is a risk to the public health,” Gore said.
Contrary to earlier drafts, which would have mandated a no-smoking zone near building entrances or in outdoor courtyards, Clinton’s order Saturday gave individual agency heads the discretion to “evaluate the need” for such restrictions.
“After a lengthy review by the interagency process, we concluded it was better that that decision be left to the director of the agency,” said Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser to the president.
Outdoor smoking will be prohibited only in front of building air-intake valves. Indoor smoking will be permitted in enclosed, separately ventilated areas.
The ban, Clinton said, will reach not only federal agencies and office buildings but also visitors’ centers at national parks and other facilities owned or leased by the executive branch. His order does not affect offices outside the executive branch - federal court buildings and congressional offices.
The long-anticipated smoking ban was the latest salvo in Clinton’s offensive against tobacco. Advisers are working to toughen a proposed settlement with tobacco companies being sued to recover state health care costs. He has acted to hike cigarette taxes, restrict advertising and crack down with Food and Drug Administration enforcement of tobacco regulations.
Clinton appealed to Congress for $34 million Saturday for FDA tobacco rules enforcement in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The Senate voted for $5 million and the House for about $24 million in appropriations bills awaiting final action after the congressional recess.
“I urge the Congress to do the right thing and restore the full $34 million when they return in September,” Clinton said. “We need to do more to cut off our children’s access to tobacco - and this is no time to cut corners.”