Sen. Orrin Harch, R-Utah, invited Congress to "get on the ban wagon" Tuesday and totally ban smoking on all domestic commercial airline flights.
He and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, introduced a bill Tuesday calling for that ban. They said they hope it will be enacted before the current, temporary ban on smoking on flights lasting less than two hours expires in April 1990.Hatch also said that he plans to introduce another bill on Wednesday with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to ban all smoking on all interstate passenger carriers--including trains and buses. "But that will be much more difficult to pass," he said.
Joining Hatch and Lautenberg at a press conference Tuesday was U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who said their bill is "an action that I think is long overdue.
"I don't think anybody in the world except the U.S. Tobacco Institute debates the fact that smoking is a hazardous practice to those who do it and also that passive smoking is a hazardous act to non-smokers,"Koop said.
He added that new studies by the National Cancer Institute show that passengers sitting in nonsmoking sections of airplanes are exposed to nicotine levels just as high as those sitting in smoking sections.
"And aircraft built over the past five years have a much less efficient system for changing the air within the cabin, and therefore the risk is twice as high (of receiving second-hand smoke) in new airplanes as old airplanes," he said.
He added that the airline industry could save $100 million a year on air filters alone if cigarette smoking were banned on all flights.
Hatch said, "Passive smoking is a very real threat against perhaps our most fundamental individual right--the right to life...People can choose to smoke, but there is no such choice about breathing.
"The surgeon general has made it clear that every day there are 1,000 cigarette smokers who die prematurely, and they are taking 12 to 15 non-smokers with them."
Lautenberg said he expects little opposition to the airline smoking ban bill because the current ban on flights of less than two hours has been relatively well received. He said only 18 instances of people refusing to obey the ban have been reported in the past 11 months.
Also, airplane flights are relatively short, so not smoking for that time is generally not considered much of an inconvenience for smokers.