The Library of Congress will shutter its last sanctuaries for smokers April 15 in compliance with a new regulation that prohibits smoking inside all of its facilities.
The ban, which will include the Library’s three Capitol Hill buildings as well as government vehicles, was finalized last week after several months of negotiations between LOC officials and the four unions that represent Library employees.
According to an LOC spokeswoman, while a variety of factors including complaints over smoke-filled bathrooms prompted the ban, health concerns were the primary motivation in implementing the new regulation.
“It’s a health issue,” said LOC spokeswoman Helen Dalrymple.
Under the new regulation, Library officials will eliminate smoking-designated lounges and bathrooms and clean and refurbish the areas for employees to use “in a non-smoking capacity.”
According to the Library of Congress Professional Guild, the Madison Building, occupied by a majority of LOC employees, currently houses 10 lounges and six restrooms dedicated as smoking areas, while both the Jefferson and Adams buildings maintain a handful of smoking-designated bathrooms.
“Hopefully when they finish, you will never know it is a smoking area,” said Dennis Roth, president of the Congressional Research Employees Association.
To replace the indoor facilities and provide an area for employees to smoke, the agreement requires the Library to install “ash receptacles,” specially designed outdoor ashcans, at locations adjacent to each of the LOC’s three Hill buildings.
The agreement also provides for the installation of signs denoting “smoke free” areas adjacent to each of the buildings.
“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with our managers,” said Library of Congress Professional Guild President Saul Schniderman. “It protects the health of Library employees and protects the rights of those people who smoke.”
Similarly, Library Police Labor Committee Chairman Mark Timberlake stated: “Even though we wanted to represent both smokers and non-smokers, we wanted to side on the side of health and safety.”
In addition, the regulation includes a provision to promote the smoking cessation program offered by the Library’s Health Services Office.
“It was available if they came and asked, but this is going to be a much more structured program,” Dalrymple said.
In the meantime, union officials said they are still working on obtaining some type of sheltered facility for smokers to use during inclement weather and the summer months.
“The Library doesn’t want to encourage smoking, but at the same time the union officials are trying to make some accommodations for their smoking members,” Dalrymple said.
While an executive order issued by the Clinton administration banned smoking in executive branch buildings, there is no such prohibition for legislative branch facilities.
(Schniderman asserted that the Library is the first legislative branch institution to issue such a ban.)
Nevertheless, only a handful of public smoking areas now exist on the Congressional campus, including the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria.
Congressional lawmakers set policies for their personal offices on an individual basis.