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The Captain Has Put on the No-Smoking Sign - Forever

February 25, 1990

Undated (AP) _ A smoking ban on nearly all domestic U.S. flights took effect Sunday amid both relief and grumbling, and the phrase ″Smoking or non-smoking?″ all but disappeared from the lips of ticket agents.

″If the plane starts to go down, I’m lighting one up,″ said Dave Noeth of New York City, a traveler at LaGuardia Airport.

The federal ban, in force since 1988 on flights of less than two hours, now applies to 99.8 percent of domestic flights - the only exception being flights to Alaska and Hawaii of more than six hours. Overseas fights are not affected.

″It’s wonderful. It’s for the health of everyone,″ said Eastern Airlines flight attendant Nancy Roberson of Charleston, S.C. ″I think there are more pleased people than not. All the passengers tell me about it.″

Michael Barnett, an Eastern ticket agent in Miami, said the elimination of smoking and non-smoking sections made his life a bit easier. ″Now we just issue seats,″ he said.

Supporters of the ban say separate smoking sections do not adequately shield non-smoking passengers and crew members from cigarette smoke. Critics argue that smokers’ rights are being trampled on.

″I don’t think it’s fair,″ said Gail Fiore of Huntington, N.Y., as she arrived at LaGuardia. ″I pay the same fare as a non-smoker and there should be a section for it. They’re giving all the non-smokers all the rights and taking away all of ours.″

Added her husband, Hugo: ″Even in the service they gave you a 10-minute smoke break.″

Other smokers took a more resigned approach, even if nicotine withdrawal pangs are likely to bring new meaning to the term white-knuckle flying.

″If they say you don’t smoke, you don’t smoke,″ said Rich Meadows of Ridgecrest, Calif., as he awaited a Chicago-bound flight at Los Angeles International Airport.

″I don’t care for it, but that’s the way it goes. I’ll just take some chewing tobacco, which makes the stewardesses mad. It’s pretty disgusting, but it’s something to do.″

Dan Lauria, a spokesman for the Tobacco Institute, a lobbying group, said last week that he had fielded many calls from ″miserable″ smokers.

″We are telling the people the law is the law,″ he said. ″We’re telling people not to smoke in the bathroom. It’s dangerous to the plane.″

Longtime smoker Joanne Sharples of Omaha, Neb., arriving in Miami, said she managed not to light up during the flight. ″After about three hours you get those anxiety pangs. But I’ve gone eight hours,″ she said.

Mrs. Sharples, who said she has tried four times to quit smoking and plans to try again, said she understands non-smokers’ desire to breathe clean air.

″I wish they would do the same thing for women who wear an abundance of perfume,″ she said. ″I can understand certainly a smoke-free America, a drug-free America and a perfume-free America 3/8″

Matthew Bowen, who was traveling from Atlanta to Norfolk, Va., to see his grandchildren, said smokers must lobby to protect smoking areas. He said airlines would listen if smokers threatened to take their money to competitors.

″I’ve smoked three cigarettes this morning just waiting for the plane when I usually would smoke one,″ he said. He joked that he was ″storing up.″

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