WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced guidelines yesterday on smoking in public buildings to help curb illness from secondhand tobacco smoke.
The EPA asked all companies and agencies operating public buildings to either ban smoking or use ventilation to ensure that people are protected from secondhand smoke.
The guidelines are voluntary, reinforcing the the EPA's stand, announced in January, in which it declared that secondhand smoke causes cancer and respiratory disease and should be regulated.
Democratic Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, said: "EPA's new recommendations will have a dramatic impact. Many cities and states are already moving to control environmental tobacco smoke, as shown by recent smoking restrictions in California, Hawaii, Vermont, North Dakota, and Utah."
Last month, tobacco companies filed suit against the EPA in U.S. District Court in North Carolina, where some companies have their headquarters, in an effort to get the January finding rescinded.
The EPA guidelines issued yesterday focused on the need to protect children, especially asthmatic chil
dren, from secondhand smoke. These children are the most vulnerable to sickness from the smoke, according to the January finding.
The EPA urged that all restaurants, schools, day-care centers and other places where children spend time prohibit smoking or establish practices that ensure that air from smoking areas is not recirculated to the rooms occupied by children.
These establishments should "have a smoking policy that effectively protects children from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke," the agency said.
In all companies, the guidelines said, there should be a similar policy that protects nonsmokers.
The guidelines urged parents to smoke outside the home and to ask guests not to smoke in the house.
In testimony before the House subcommittee yesterday, EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said that secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes about 3,000 deaths annually from lung cancer alone. Such smoke causes 150,000 to 300,000 respiratory infections in infants that result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations a year, she said.
Two asthmatic children also testified. Leroy Maxwell Graham, 5, of Atlanta testified that he went to a baseball game and sat near a smoker. The cigarette smoke he inhaled caused him to vomit, he said.
Michelle Woodard, 9, from Haslett, Mich., testified that she was unable to visit the homes of some of her friends or her grandparents because cigarette smoke made her ill. Sometimes, she said, the smoke brought on asthmatic attacks.