Virginia governor limits smoking

RICHMOND, Va. – Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine on Thursday ordered a ban on smoking in most of Virginia’s government buildings and vehicles, a milestone for a state with a long history of tobacco farming that is home to the world’s largest cigarette maker.

“Banning smoking in all executive branch buildings is the right thing to do,” Kaine said as he signed the order, citing federal studies about the dangers of smoking. “There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke.”

Effective Jan. 1, the state’s 100,000 employees will not be allowed to smoke inside virtually all executive branch buildings, forcing smokers to take their habit outdoors. Smoking also will not be allowed in most state-owned cars and trucks.

The move is notable in part because Virginia has a four-century history of tobacco cultivation and is the base of powerful tobacco interests. Cigarette industry leader Philip Morris USA is based here in the state capital.

Kaine’s decision means Virginia will join at least 22 other states, including tobacco producers Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia, in banning smoking in all or most government buildings. North Carolina bans the practice in legislative buildings. South Carolina has no statewide ban on smoking in government buildings, according to the American Lung Association.

Even before Kaine’s decision, smoking was prohibited in some Virginia state buildings. But those bans were at the discretion of each agency or building manager. Kaine said his executive order will “end the patchwork” of regulations. The order does not affect the state Legislature or the judiciary. And it does not cover prisons or state police cars.

A spokeswoman for the state police said the police superintendent will review smoking policies for troopers in their cars.

Advocates for the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association said Kaine’s action would protect the health of the state work force.

“We’d love to see everybody stop smoking,” said Robert Call, a physician and chairman of the political action committee for the Medical Society of Virginia. “We see this as a great first step. It sets a good example.”

Terry Hargrove, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, said her organization is “very happy” to see Kaine protect most government employees and visitors to government buildings from secondhand smoke.

But her organization is at odds with Kaine over his refusal to sign broader legislation that would ban smoking in businesses, office buildings, restaurants and other places where the public gathers.

Kaine’s action, Hargrove said, would only protect some workers. “Now we have to protect all workers,” she said.

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