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Doctor Urges Hospitals To Ban Smoking

September 4, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ Hospitals should take a cue from industry and ban on-the-job smoking by their employees, a physician said in a letter published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Michael J. Martin said a Seattle-based telephone company has obtained impressive results from a smoking ban.

″It is time now for all hospitals to consider such a ban,″ he wrote. ″Smoking is the greatest cause of premature death and disability in the United States, and it would be ironic if health care institutions let the general business community take the lead in banning smoking in the work place.″

Martin said Pacific Northwest Bell barred smoking by its 15,000 workers last October. During the first six months, no one left as a result of the policy, no lawsuits were filed, and the workers’ unions supported the measure.

Martin, who is on the faculty of the University of California in San Francisco, wrote the letter with Dr. Annette Fehrenbach of the phone company and Robert Rosner of the Smoking Policy Institute at Seattle University.

They predicted that the experience will almost certainly encourage other large companies to consider such a ban.

″If widely adopted, these policies might have a dramatic effect on the nation’s smoking habits,″ they wrote. ″Theoretically, they would encourage people to quit smoking by increasing the social pressure against it and by restricting the time available for it.″

At the Tobacco Institute, a cigarette manufacturers’ trade group in Washington, spokesman Scott Stapf disputed the letter’s conclusions.

″Pacific Northwest Bell’s experience is in no way typical of what’s been observed in corporations on a national level,″ he said.

He said unions generally oppose smoking bans that have not been agreed to through collective bargaining.

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