Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Congressional puff piece

The smoke-free workplace has become so familiar that most of us -- especially us non-smokers -- never give it a thought. Of course if you were Georgia Republican lawmaker Charlie Norwood, you might have reason to think about it as you scooted around your workplace in a motorized wheelchair hooked up to an oxygen tank and with a newly transplanted lung. Because where he works it's just fine to light up in many places, including public spaces like the Speaker's Lobby.
That's where Norwood was caught in the cloud that an aide says he didn't complain about, but where a lighted cigarette passed so close to his oxygen tank, one observer worried the whole place might go up.

"I can't go in there. If I have to go in, I have to get out. It's very unfair," Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a Los Angeles Democrat and crusader for nonsmokers' rights, recently complained. (LA Times)
The new majority leader John Boehner is a chain smoker, so the atmosphere isn't likely to clear soon. Washington, DC doesn't allow smoking in public places, but Congress is, well, an exception.
Flouting its host city's new smoking ban could enhance the impression that Congress holds itself above its citizenry. It is immune from the Freedom of Information Act and many federal civil rights and labor laws. It can vote itself raises even if the economy tanks, has health insurance while as many as 46 million Americans go without, and its members soon will be free to puff away in their congressional digs while the rest of Washington's smoking public is forced out into the cold.


The Republicans have made the Capitol friendlier for tobacco since they claimed the majority. No more calling on the heads of the seven tobacco companies to defend their practices under oath, as Waxman did in 1994. In fact, Rep. Roy Blunt, No. 3 in the GOP leadership, is married to a lobbyist for the parent company of industry giant Philip Morris.
Incidentally, Charlie Norwood is also behind the Republican congress's most brazen attempts to gut OSHA. In fact there are so many of Jordan's posts about Norwood I can't link them all. Here and here are a couple. So if Charlie has an unhealthy workplace I'm not going to cry about it.

But what about all the rest of the staffers who work long days in the Congressional offices of their smoking bosses? I don't wish a lethal disease on anyone. But if it has to happen to someone, why not these guys?

[Guest post by Revere of Effect Measure]