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'Smoke-Free Zones'
NIH Smoking Policy Revamped

A revamped NIH smoking policy has been established to protect employees and the public from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace. This policy applies to all NIH'ers, as well as other federal employees and members of the public while they are working in or visiting facilities owned, leased or otherwise controlled by NIH.

NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus, in signing this policy into effect recently, said, "As the federal agency whose mission is to improve health through research, NIH should be a leader in doing whatever we can to protect and improve the health of our employees. Everyone at NIH should be aware of the dangers to one's health from smoking or chewing tobacco and from exposure to second-hand smoke."

No longer will most buildings support smoking just outside doorways and near air intakes.

The new policy was crafted by a subcommittee of the NIH quality of work life committee. It was composed of both smokers and nonsmokers. Implementation of the policy will take several months, but the target date for full completion of the necessary signs for each building is mid-October, so they will be in place by the American Cancer Society's "Great American Smoke-Out," slated for Nov. 17.

According to the new NIH policy, the use of lighted tobacco products shall not be permitted in the following locations.

  • Inside any building on the NIH campus;

  • Inside any off-campus building, whether leased, rented or owned by NIH (unless otherwise stipulated by site host);

  • Inside any government-owned, leased or contractor vehicle operated by, or for the use of, NIH employees or visitors;

  • Near building entrances and exits and in courtyard areas, if within close proximity of entrances and exits;

  • In front of building air intake ducts;

  • Inside any covered parking garage that is physically part of or connected to a facility where NIH employees regularly pass on their way to or from work;

  • Within designated "Smoke-Free Zones."

Smoke-free zones are an important part of the new policy. Areas near building entrances, exits and in front of air intake ducts have been designated smoke-free zones to prevent the smoke produced outside buildings from being absorbed through open doorways or heating and air conditioning systems, which can pull outside air into the buildings. Signs designating these zones will be posted during the next few months. In addition, those wanting to smoke will be encouraged to step away from these areas through the placement of smoking trash receptacles outside the protected zones.

The only exception to this policy will be the Clinical Center, which has its own extensive nonsmoking policy in place. At NIH worksites where NIH is not the facilities-controlling occupant, NIH'ers must observe the policies on the use of tobacco products prescribed by the site host.

The new NIH policy strongly encourages and supports employees who want to stop smoking to enroll in an authorized smoking cessation program. Information about these programs will be widely publicized; NIH will pay the full cost for employees who successfully complete an NIH-sponsored smoking cessation program.

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