Is it true that "Smoking Rules Spread Like Wildfire"? The Post, in a surprisingly uncritical manner, accepted the results of a recent survey conducted by the Bureau of National Affairs without so much as a thought as to how accurate and truly reflective the data might be. In fact, no serious observer of the issue of smoking policies in the private work place would be able to agree with the information presented.

By the close of this year, The Tobacco Institute will have responded to about 700 corporate requests for work-place assistance in 1987 alone. Our active role as counsel to business, providing them with the information necessary to make their own decisions about smoking policies, has been in place for years. Our long-term and hands-on experience indicate that companies, far from the one year of experience portrayed by the BNA, are seeking reasonable accommodations of both smokers and nonsmokers. The vast majority of employers nationwide have shown no willingness to impose sweeping or severe restrictions on smoking in their places of business, during 1987 or any other year. As with so many issues, employers find that they are best served by seeking and finding the middle ground in any disputes that may stem from differing employee preferences.

The picture painted by the BNA survey is, in short, not representative. Perhaps next time, The Post will question such dramatic shifts -- in the handling of any issue, not just that of smoking -- with a more critical and skeptical eye. -- Brennan Moran The writer is assistant to the president of The Tobacco Institute.