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Smoke-free workplaces? OSHA lets states decide

December 21, 2001
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OSHA has withdrawn an inactive indoor air quality regulation it proposed in 1994 that would have banned smoking in virtually all workplaces. As a result, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), an anti-smoking organization that sued OSHA for delaying in adopting the seven-year-old proposed rule, has dismissed its lawsuit.

OSHA's decision was reached with the support of major anti-smoking public health groups including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

John Henshaw, OSHA's administrator, said considerable activity on workplace smoking restrictions is now taking place at the state and local levels, and federal action is not necessary at this time. "Of course, this action does not preclude future agency action if the need arises," he added.

The American Lung Association reports there has been a 50 percent increase in workplaces that have a smoke-free policy since 1994.

"The urgency for federal action that existed when the rule-making began has been changed by the actions of local communities, private employers and the states," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a letter to OSHA.

ASH said the suit's dismissal will avoid forcing OSHA to take action it had suggested in its court filings that ASH considered harmful to nonsmokers, including developing a hypothetical measurement of tobacco-smoke pollution rather than prohibiting smoking. ASH also feared OSHA might write a weak regulation.

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