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April 22, 1996

Court upholds statewide ban on smoking in offices

The Department of Labor & Industries' 1994 statewide ban on smoking in private offices was upheld today in Thurston County Superior Court.

Judge Richard Strophy rejected a challenge mounted by the tobacco industry and three Washington employers, ruling that L&I was within its statutory authority and made a well-reasoned decision to provide workers with the maximum protection available.

"I'm delighted that the nation's first statewide ban on smoking in offices will stand," said an elated L&I Director Mark O. Brown. "This is a big win for Washington workers, and hopefully another nail in the coffin for Joe Camel."

L&I's rule protects office workers by prohibiting tobacco smoking in all offices except in specially ventilated rooms. The L&I action marked the first time that such a rule was adopted under any state or federal worker safety law.

Testimony in the five-day trial ended last week, and Judge Strophy continued the case until today in order to further consider evidence and the closing arguments from both sides.

The lawsuit challenged the 1994 worker safety and health rule that L&I adopted after a lengthy process that involved a citizens' advisory group, a comprehensive public comment solicitation and a series of public hearings. The process generated a 45,000-page administrative record. The rule is aimed at protecting office workers from the health hazard of environmental tobacco smoke. The regulation does not affect restaurants, taverns, factories or other indoor work areas (except for the office spaces of those establishments).

Today's ruling marks the fourth time that a court has rejected the tobacco industry's challenge to the Washington state rule. Preliminary motions for dismissal and stay of the rules prior to their effective date in 1994 was denied by Strophy and then upheld on appeals to the state Court of Appeals and the Washington State Supreme Court.


For media information, contact: 
Bill Ripple, L&I, 360-902-5407, ripp235@lni.wa.gov

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