The issue is not smokers' rights. The issues are whether we intend to protect nonsmokers from involuntarily breathing tobacco smoke, whether we care enough about our fellow human beings who smoke to encourage them to stop killing themselves, and whether we're serious about the billions of dollars of "health care costs smoking causes. Cigarette smoking is slow-motion suicide. It is tragic when people do it to themselves, but it is inexcusable to allow smokers to commit slow-motion murder.

As secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, I issued an order requiring that each employee's right to smoke-free space be recognized. After a few shakedown weeks, all employees, smokers and nonsmokers alike, not only lived with it, but they reported that they were much happier than befoe.

In April 1984, Malcolm T. Stamper, president of the Boeing Co., established a corporate policy to create a smoke-free work place. As an initial step, Boeing prohibited smoking in common areas throughout the work place, such as hallways, restrooms, lobbies, libraries and computer rooms. When Stamper first put this policy in place, he expected resistance from the workers and the union. Instead he got acceptance and appreciation. . . .

Surgeon General Koop has called on Americans to create a smoke-free society by the year 2000. Passing S. 1440 will send a powerful signal -- through every federal courthouse, every one of Social Security's 1,300 field offices, every House and Senate hearing room and 30,000 post offices -- that the health hazards of secondhand smoke are real and require protective measures. It will ensure a healthier federal work force and a safer, more pleasant atmosphere for our citizens who visit federal offices.