The military is about to join the ranks of thousands of civilian employers: It is banning smoking in the workplace, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The regulations, to take effect April 8, will eliminate designated smoking areas near thousands of offices, hallways and other facilities in Defense Department buildings around the world, including the Pentagon, where 25,000 people work.
In all, about 4-million people will be affected, making this one of the most sweeping such orders that the federal government has imposed.
Pentagon officials said the regulation, to be signed today by Undersecretary of Defense John Deutch, comes in recognition of dozens of studies showing that smoking is harmful to health.
The ban will not affect barracks and other living quarters, officers' and enlisted clubs and restaurants on military installations.
The move is the military's latest step to curtail smoking, drinking and the use of illegal drugs.
In 1986, for example, the Army and Navy imposed stringent restrictions on smoking in the military workplace, including ships, aircraft and offices after surveys showed about half the personnel in the Army and the Navy smoked, compared to some 30 percent of the U.S. public as a whole.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration suggested there is "mounting evidence" that cigarette manufacturers have been lacing their products with nicotine to make them more addictive and threatened to seek to regulate the industry if it found the charges to be true.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., asked for a congressional investigation into the allegations Monday.
_ Information from Reuters was used in this report.