Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mail Pouring in to Attack Osha's Anti-Smoking Plan

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mail Pouring in to Attack Osha's Anti-Smoking Plan

Article excerpt

ASHTRAYS FULL of cigarette butts, nasty missives with swastikas and expletives and even several death threats are part of a record flood of mail inundating the federal agency that is about to write regulations that could severely restrict smoking in the nation's 6 million workplaces.

So far, Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials say they have processed close to 50,000 letters about workplace smoking - most of it from people opposed to the regulations. Many letter writers objected to what they saw as government interference in their personal lives.

Sources at OSHA said the agency has also received about a dozen death threats. One threat, for example, was a letter with Nazi swastikas that read, "You shall all be put to death for threatening our rights."

OSHA sources said the agency had never before received mail this hostile. Employees opening the letters have been given extra training to identify potentially troublesome pieces of mail and have been taught how to identify mail that might contain explosives.

"We are certainly concerned about safety when you deal with a controversial situation like this," said an OSHA employee who asked not to be identified. "People have been made aware of the security concerns, because some of the letters have been pretty threatening."

OSHA officials would not comment on the death threats. But they confirmed that the response to the proposed regulations had been the largest ever received by the agency.

"This is what the rule-making process is all about, in order that we draft and publish the final rules properly," said OSHA spokeswoman Camille Johnston. "We are recording everything that has come in."

The period for public comment on the proposed smoking regulations ends today, and public hearings, expected to last several weeks, are scheduled to begin Sept. 20.

The proposed rules, which OSHA announced late in March, would ban workplace smoking unless a separate, enclosed and ventilated room for smokers is in place. …

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