Figures published by the Journal of Occupational Medicine suggest that 38.0 percent of clerical and 30.7 percent of professional and technical workers smoke. If the incidence of smoking among government employees is the same as in the civilian work force, then the proposed ban on smoking in government buildings will affect 149,150 clerks and 207,839 professional and technical employees.

Under the assumption that smoking employees would be given two 10- minute smoking breaks, the lost work time would be 20 minutes per day per smoking employee. Valuing the lost time on the basis of 1981 employment and compensation rates, and again assuming a 250-day work year, $309.5 million is an estimate of the dollar value of annual productivity losses.

Note that this cost will grow year after year with the increase in overnment compensation rates. Note also that the $309.5 million figure is quite conservative. It does not include the value of lost work time for the 453,000 government employees in blue-collar occupations. We exclude blue-collar workers because the disparate nature of their work environments makes it difficult to generalize about the impact of the proposed law.

-- Robert D. Tollison is the director of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University. He testified before the Senate civil service subcommittee on behalf of the Tobacco Institute.

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The productivity losses that Prof. Tollison says will follow from S. 1440 are really, in part, the productivity losses presently being suffered by the U.S. government because it employs smokers. Smoking breaks are probably more frequent and longer at one's work station and are as nonproductive as they would be with limited smoking areas. To these losses, we must add the adverse effects on nonsmokers (two nonsmokers to every smoker) and the whole range of pollution, cleaning and fire-risk and accident costs. In fact, the tobacco industry's opposition to S. 1440 only makes sense if they fear that restricting smoking locations will reduce cigarette consumption and encourage smokers to quit. . . .

Tollison says that there are 356,989 smoking government employees, or approximately one-third of its labor force. In mid-1985 dollars . . . we estimate that the average smoking employee costs his employer $550 per year in excess shorter-run costs as compared with employing a similar nonsmoker. . . .

-- Marvin M. Kristein is a professor of economics and medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.