- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday ordered smoking banished from the majority of state offices and from all state-owned vehicles on Jan. 1, a move he hoped would set a health-conscious example in a state known for its tobacco industry.

The order affects state employees in offices occupied by the executive branch, as well as public colleges and universities. It includes more than half the state’s 100,000 employees.

Until now, those offices created their own policies.

“That led to a patchwork of different rules,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat. “It’s now time to take the policy that’s a patchwork and make a uniform policy.”

Virginia joins 22 states and the District with similar bans.

Mr. Kaine made the announcement in downtown Richmond, a few miles from the headquarters of cigarette giant Philip Morris USA.

Philip Morris, which produces 470 million cigarettes a day at its production center south of the city, applauded Mr. Kaine’s order.

“We understand and agree that people should be able to avoid secondhand smoke, particularly in places where they must go, such as public buildings,” spokesman Bill Phelps said.

Mr. Kaine also cited health care costs in making the decision. Virginia spent $550 million on health care for state employees last year.

“Banning smoking inside state government buildings and vehicles … ultimately will help hold down our state work force health care costs,” said Mr. Kaine, who was joined by representatives from the American Cancer Society.

There are exceptions to the new rule. Offices occupied by the legislative and judicial branches are not included in the measure; the governor doesn’t manage those offices.

Virginia’s mental health facilities, the Department of Corrections and Virginia State Police have asked to set their own smoking policies.

Rules for smoking outside offices, on state-owned property, will fall to agency managers.

Secretary of Administration Viola Baskerville will form guidelines, Mr. Kaine said.

For the past two years, employees at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control have been forced into one of three places for their nicotine fix: a small patio outside their Richmond headquarters, or a pair of ventilated smoking rooms.

Yesterday, workers gathered in one of the dim rooms, watching TV and hovering over ashtrays as a gray haze hung in the air.

Managers there had already toyed with eliminating smoking areas, spokeswoman Rebecca Gettings said.

“This took care of it for us,” she said.

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