With smoking banned on flights within U.S. borders, the Senate is now trying to prohibit it on international flights, upsetting foreign airlines.
"This is good politics in the United States because there is a strong anti-smoking lobby," Wanda Potrykus, spokeswoman for the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association, said Friday. "However, there is an equally virulent pro-smoking lobby in Asia and France."In a late-night voice vote Thursday, the Senate added an amendment to a $47.1 billion transpor-ta-tion spending bill that would ban smoking on international flights arriving and departing at U.S. airports. The amendment's sponsor, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was 14 when his chain-smoking father died of lung cancer.
Durbin said he was reacting to complaints from airline passengers who had embraced the domestic ban and were wondering why they had to tolerate smoky cabin air on lengthier overseas flights.
Smoking, under attack in the United States, remains an integral part of cultures in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Durbin said he expected a challenge from foreign carriers and tobacco groups when differences are resolved between the Senate bill and a House measure still under consideration.
"We have an authority to establish safety standards for flights taking off and landing in the United States," the senator said in an interview. "We think it includes health issues as well."
Potrykus' association, which represents foreign air carriers, said that while the United States has the power to institute such a ban, it risks triggering an international confrontation.
"If the U.S. starts requiring this, France could turn around and say all carriers flying into France must have smoking flights for their passengers," she said.