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Air Is Far From Cleared in Workplaces : Most Smokers Fume Over New Pack of Rules

August 21, 1986|DOUG BROWN | Times Staff Writer

Rollie Spicer puffed hurriedly on a cigarette as he anxiously paced an isolated hallway. When co-workers at Fender Musical Instruments Corp. in Brea walked past, the 45-year-old telephone salesman averted his eyes.

"It isn't fair," Spicer groused to an observer.

Spicer, a smoker for 28 years, was complaining about Fender's 3-month-old ban on smoking in his department that has brought to a halt his usual habit of leisurely smoking about four cigarettes an hour while taking phone orders at his desk. Instead, he has to ask a colleague to answer his phone while he takes smoking breaks in the hall.

Since last year, a spate of local ordinances and rules adopted by private companies in Orange County have eliminated or restricted much workplace smoking. Spicer and many other smokers now find they can light up only in such designated areas as hallways, sections of lunchrooms, or outdoors.

A sampling of employee sentiment at large and small companies in Orange County indicates that most smokers resent these restrictions.

Most nonsmokers say they are relieved that they no longer have to breathe smoke-filled air.

Tough times for smokers in the workplace began last year with the passage of anti-smoking ordinances by the Orange County Board of Supervisors and nine of the county's 26 cities--Brea, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Yorba Linda, Newport Beach, Tustin, and Westminster.

All of the new laws spell out rules for workplace smoking in government offices; some also apply to private firms in their jurisdiction. Others leave smoking policies for private firms up to local chambers of commerce.

While local ordinances and rules differ in details, they generally bar smoking in conference rooms, restrooms, elevators and other common areas.

Chamber Assistance Sought

About 54% of the 5,300 companies operating in the county now have policies on smoking, according to a survey completed late last year. Orange County Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Beverly Cearley said another 34% are drawing up such policies or have requested Chamber of Commerce assistance in doing so. Only 12% of the companies surveyed expressed no interest in developing a smoking policy.

Spokesmen for the county's five largest private employers--Hughes Aircraft Co., Rockwell International Corp., McDonnell Douglas Corp., Pacific Bell and Disneyland--with work forces ranging from 5,400 to 17,400--all said they don't have companywide policies. Since they operate satellite plants in different jurisdictions, each individual facility simply abides by the smoking ordinance of the city in which it is situated.

Orange County government, with 13,000 employees, has prohibited smoking in its buildings since June, 1985, except in designated areas such as lounges or outdoor areas, a spokeswoman said.

Interviews with company managers and visits with employees at medium-sized companies, which the Chamber of Commerce reports employ the bulk of the county's work force, show that smokers generally are having a difficult time adjusting to the new smoking prohibitions.

The bans are so controversial that some companies turned down requests for on-site interviews with employees.

"If you come out to talk about this, it would stir up things with those people who complained about the changes," said Ruth Ruyle, manager of administration for Elpac Electronics Inc. in Santa Ana.

Ban in Open Office Areas

At Admar Corp. in Orange, management last March banned smoking in open office areas, according to personnel manager Sue McInerney. Most of the company's 160 employees work in such shared office areas. Smoking is permitted only in the firm's handful of private offices, sections of two lunchrooms and outdoors.

The impetus for the no-smoking policy, McInerney said, came from employee complaints about cigarette smoke at the health-care cost-containment firm, located in two separate buildings in a one-story office park.

"Any significant workplace change is often difficult for some employees, and in this case it's been tough on smokers," McInerney told a visitor during a recent midday visit.

In one large room, 20 employees work at separate desks, separated only by shoulder-high, movable walls. Smoker Renee Jamerson, who works in one of these cubicles, said she has drastically altered her workday to maintain her cigarette habit.

The 31-year-old medical claims examiner said that before the new policy went into effect, she began work 30 to 45 minutes before her scheduled 8 a.m. starting time; she enjoyed getting an early start on the day while smoking at her desk.

Now, however, Jamerson said she arrives at her desk precisely at 8 a.m. "I'm so used to smoking and the taste of cigarettes that I can only go about three hours without one," she said as she finished a cigarette that would control her urge to smoke until lunch at 11:30 a.m.

During the four and a half hours between lunch and quitting time at 4:30 p.m., Jamerson said, she takes one quick mid-afternoon cigarette break.

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