WASHINGTON — Anti-smoking activists, medical experts and several members of Congress called today for a permanent ban of smoking on airliners.
Opponents, including tobacco interests and some lawmakers, urged that Congress await the results of a government study before making permanent or expanding the current law that bans smoking on short flights.
The differing views came in testimony submitted at a congressional hearing that included a plea from a flight attendant who said her health was ruined from serving smoking passengers and an indoor air expert who said there are worse health hazards--including infectious disease--in an airliner cabin than smoke.
'Isn't It Time . . . ?'
"Only a total ban on airline smoking will adequately protect the health and safety of airline passengers and flight crews," said Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who is sponsoring legislation that would give Congress a choice of making the ban on flights under two hours permanent or expanding it to a permanent ban on smoking aboard all commercial flights.
"Isn't it time all our domestic flights were smokeless?" asked Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.).
Reps. Robert Lindsay Thomas (R-Ga.) and Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), however, told the House Public Works and Transportation subcommittee on aviation not to pass any anti-smoking bill until the Department of Transportation completes a study of air quality aboard airliners.
"I hope we will find a solution to this problem which will protect the rights of both those who choose to smoke and those who have decided not to do so," Thomas said.
Representatives of the American Medical Assn., the American Assn. for Respiratory Care and the Assn. of Flight Attendants called for a permanent ban of smoking on all flights, saying smoking poses a proven health hazard to nonsmoking passengers and crew as well as to smokers.
Gray Robinson, president of a company that specializes in fighting indoor air pollution, ACVA Atlantic Inc., said an airline passenger is more likely to get sick from bacteria, fungi and viruses floating in the poorly ventilated air than from cigarette smoke.
"Ironically, there has been no evidence of excessive levels of carbon monoxide, airborne particulates or nicotine, all of which have been linked to tobacco smoke as a source," Robinson said.