The Procter & Gamble Co. will ban smoking in all its office buildings and technical centers in the United States this fall.

P&G notified employees this week of the new smoke-free policy, which will begin Sept. 1. The policy does not cover the company's manufacturing plants, which are to be covered later.P&G has 47,400 employees in the United States and 88,800 worldwide. They already are forbidden to smoke in production areas.

"The primary motivation is the desire to promote health and wellness and provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees," P&G spokesman T.E. Loftus said.

"The decision was announced four months prior to the effective date to give people who do smoke time to stop or alter their smoking habits. The intent eventually is to make P&G workplaces smoke-free worldwide."

Extending its ban to plants, offices and research and development centers is expected to take P&G longer in some countries where public awareness of health problems related to smoking isn't as great as in the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently provided evidence to show an increased cancer risk to non-smokers who inhale second-hand environmental tobacco smoke, said Loftus.

For employees who want to stop smoking but need help, P&G plans to make a program available. Classes are to be held at company locations if there are enough participants to justify them, with fees shared by P&G and participating employees.

If there aren't enough participants to hold classes at company sites, Loftus said, P&G plans to arrange for employees to attend community-based classes.

Employees who want to continue smoking will have to do it outside company buildings in a place designated at each site.