A Smoke-Free Workplace

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said earlier this week that he had reversed his position on the proposed smoking ban in the District's restaurants and bars. He's now convinced that the ban won't harm the hospitality business.

If the ban passes, it would bring workers in those businesses one step closer to something most workers already take for granted: a smoke-free workplace.

About 70 percent of the nation's indoor workers operated in a smoke-free environment in 1999, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That was a significant jump from 1986, when only 3 percent of workplaces were smoke-free.

This seems to be a clear victory for nonsmokers, but it wouldn't be America if some of us couldn't find something new to complain about. In this case, it's the frequent breaks from work that smokers take to maintain their habits.

One in five of the nonsmokers who filled out a questionnaire on the Web site of Vault.com cited the frequent breaks that smokers get -- when they don't get any -- as their chief complaint with their puffing co-workers.

Perhaps their real gripe should be with their break-stingy bosses.

-- Mary Ellen Slayter