Smoking ban sought for all federal agencies

FEDERAL WORKERS

February 10, 1993|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- Federal employees who smoke at work will have to satisfy their nicotine urges in the parking lot or in a room with a separate ventilation system if a new bill before Congress becomes law.

Currently, only the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services forbid smoking in the workplace. But Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., wants to extend protection from secondhand smoke to workers in every federal agency and to children in federal day care and other facilities.

According to a recent EPA report, "3,000 lung cancer deaths per year among nonsmokers result from exposure to secondhand smoke," Mr. Lautenberg said when he introduced the bill recently. "Secondhand smoke also causes more than 200,000 lower respiratory tract infections in young children annually, including bronchitis and pneumonia, resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations."

In federal buildings, agency administrators will have the flexibility to develop alternative smoking policies, but they must provide equal protection.

Some 50 percent of U.S. children are exposed to secondhand smoke, said Mr. Lautenberg, quoting an American Heart Association report. His bill would ban smoking in elementary and secondary schools and in buildings housing federal children's programs, such as Head Start, Chapter One, day care, health care and Women, Infants and Children.

"In 1990, the Congress passed the Clean Air Act to regulate the 189 hazardous air pollutants which were estimated to cause 1,500 deaths per year," Mr. Lautenberg said. "Now we must act to regulate an air pollutant which causes at least 3,000 deaths per year."

SCHOOL BOARD -- Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., is trying to settle the Hatch Act controversy with a compromise bill that would allow federal employees to run for local offices, but still not participate in political activities at the state or federal levels.

"We need not sacrifice the legitimate desire of federal workers to pursue local civic and political interests that do not conflict or interfere with their duties," said Ms. Johnson, a moderate Republican, when she introduced the bill recently.

Since most federal workers live in jurisdictions away from where they work, there would be no danger of their superiors "intimidating" them into campaigning or voting for particular candidates, she said.

Some lawmakers believe that the Hatch Act is necessary to prevent such coercion.

Advocates for federal workers are currently lobbying Congress to repeal the Hatch Act, and several lawmakers, including Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, have introduced bills to do the deed.

President Clinton also opposes the Hatch Act.

RETRAINING -- The Office of Personnel Management is planning to revamp federal training guidelines to bring them in line with agencies' missions and long-range goals.

The new initiative comes in the wake of a 1989 study that found that "at both the career and noncareer levels, training is frequently ad hoc and self-initiated," according to a recent OPM notice in the Federal Register.

"Most federal training is voluntary, individually focused and job-specific, and bears little discernible relation to major agency objectives and missions," the notice said. Since training is not tied to performance goals, agencies are "unable to justify costs in an era of tight budgets."

As a first step, each agency will be required to conduct an assessment of its training needs and to figure out how to eliminate redundant programs and lower training costs.

Agencies will also consider the use of apprenticeships, rotating assignments, and other alternatives that may be more appropriate and less expensive than formal training.

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