11/08/2011 09:55 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2012

New Federal Building Smoking Ban Proposed By California Democrat Susan Davis

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would ban smoking in all federal buildings. The Smoke-Free Federal Buildings Act, introduced Friday, has four co-sponsors, among them Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa). The Pacific island territory Faleomavaega represents has a law banning smoking in all public places.

Davis' bill would prohibit smoking in and 25 feet around all facilities owned or leased by the federal government. Smoking sections would not be allowed inside a federal facility.

We've come a long way since Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) introduced the Non-Smokers Rights Act of 1985, a bill that would have attached penalties to anyone smoking outside of designated areas in federal buildings. (The bill did not get past hearings.)

BNA at that time reported that Stevens was opting for a modest but proactive approach to the federal buildings smoking issue:

Stevens acknowledged, however, that fully one-third of all adult Americans smoke, including many federal workers. He said this wide usage and the addicting nature of tobacco make it unrealistic to try to ban smoking from federal buildings entirely. "But it is time to take the initiative, and to take preventing action rather than reactive," he declared.

The article quotes Lewis Solmon, dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California at Los Angeles and president of Human Resources Policy Corporation, a social science and economic research firm, as advising against workplace smoking restrictions:

"[L]egislation mandating workplace smoking restrictions is not necessary," Solmon said. "This survey shows that companies can and do regulate smoking as circumstances warrant."

Solmon attributed the push for no-smoking legislation to a "small but vocal group that wants to ban smoking in the workplace."

That group made some headway in 1986, when the General Services Administration announced plans to ban smoking in parts of the 6,800 federal buildings it then managed. The GSA's proposal would have banned smoking in most public areas. Under pressure from tobacco industry groups, the rule was modified to "restrict smoking in areas where there are nonsmokers, while taking into consideration the needs of smokers."

The modification "allow[ed] for corridors, lobbies and restrooms to be designated as smoking areas...[U]nder limited circumstances, where nonsmokers are protected from passive smoke by adequate separation and division, smoking can be allowed in general office space."

GSA manages more than 50 federal buildings in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Council passed a workplace smoking ban in 2006, which prohibited smoking in bars and restaurants, with a handful of exemptions.