ALASKA RAILROAD MAY BAN EMPLOYEES FROM SMOKING

FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Cigarette smokers who work on the Alaska Railroad might want to start chewing Nicorette.

Former-Gov. Bill Sheffield, president and chief executive officer of the state-owned railroad, signed an order Tuesday banning smoking by employees while working in railroad-owned vehicles or buildings.

The railroad's board of directors is expected to endorse and perhaps broaden Sheffield's recommendation later this month. That could mean smoking will be banned in railroad vehicles or facilities by employees and the general public.

Before the mandate, employees sometimes smoked in the locomotive or caboose, said Ernie Piper, the railroad's vice president of health and safety. Passengers were allowed to smoke in vestibules on the trains.

There also were smoking areas in some railroad buildings, he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. With the ban, designated smoking areas will be posted outside buildings like railroad depots, Piper said.

The proposal to ban smoking first was taken before the railroad's employee unions. "We actually got a very strong and swift endorsement from union leadership," he said.

Piper does not expect to have any malcontents.

"I've never encountered any militant smokers on the Alaska Railroad," he said, indicating that the railroad would pay to help employees quit smoking if they wish.

The decision was made for safety and health reasons -- primarily to reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes and hypertension among railroad employees, Piper said.

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January 12, 2001


bentley@ble.org

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers