Senate One Of The Last Safe Havens For Smokers
By Jonathan Karl/CNN
WASHINGTON (April 24) -- These are not easy times for smokers who are often forced outside everytime they want to take a few puffs. But there is one surprising place where smoking is permitted virtually everywhere: the U.S. Senate
Here, where anti-tobacco legislation, is drafted, cigarette butts are everywhere, Even in the cafeterias. One Senate employee complains, "You can see there's no ventilation here. You cannot enjoy your coffee."
At every other public building in the nation's capital, smoking is restricted. "The same thing should be true here, especially here because we make a mockery of this," argues Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
Lautenberg is about to win his fight to ban smoking in the Senate's public places, although the change won't go into effect until separate rooms for smokers are built -- at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, the Senate is also a great place to buy cigarettes with no taxes. "You'll notice cigarettes are prominently displayed and available. I'm told they sell a lot of cigarettes," Lautenberg said.
The new Senate smoking restrictions come five years after similar changes in the House.
The Capitol Rotunda serves as the smoking dividing line. On the House side, smoking is strictly restricted. On the Senate side smoking is permitted in all public areas.
Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), a smoker from a tobacco state, had long resisted the restrictions. But most of Lautenberg's other colleagues seem to welcome the change.