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House Panel Studying New Bills Banning Airline Smoking

October 8, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House aviation subcommittee opened a new front Wednesday in the battle over whether to prohibit smoking on most airline flights, and the panel’s chairman gave an immediate boost to supporters of a ban.

″I personally believe some further regulation to limit smoking on aircraft is needed,″ said Rep. Norman Mineta, D-Calif., chairman of the subcommittee.

Mineta commented as his panel began hearings on bills that would forbid airline passengers from smoking cigarettes. A half dozen have been introduced that would prohibit smoking on some or all flights by U.S. carriers.

The House on July 13 approved a ban on smoking on flights of two hours or less, which would affect 80 percent of all routes. A similar measure was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee Oct. 1 and awaits full Senate action.

But both those measures are attached to transportation appropriations bills for the 1988 fiscal year, which began last Thursday.

Some lawmakers have argued that the smoking restrictions should be made a separate piece of legislation, which would have three consequences: It would allow for hearings to explore the issue, it would make the bill easier to kill, and it would protect the jurisdiction of Mineta’s subcommittee, which some have argued should have originated the provision.

Wednesday’s session allowed both sides of the issue to restate their arguments. Supporters of a smoking ban said the restrictions would alleviate a health threat to non-smokers who are forced to breathe cigarette fumes. Opponents said no indisputable evidence exists that airline cabin air is unhealthy.

In one exchange, Rep. Tim Valentine, D-N.C., asked supporters of a ban if they would also favor restricting drinking.

But Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif., responded, ″They don’t force the alcohol down our throats.″

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