House Smoking Rooms to Close Thursday

Posted September 14, 2009 at 6:42pm

The Architect of the Capitol will close the House’s last two indoor smoking rooms Thursday, converting the space into extra seating for the cafeterias in the Longworth and Cannon House office buildings.

The rooms represent the last vestige of the chamber’s once-prevalent smoking culture. Since becoming Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has slowly eradicated secondhand smoke from the House, beginning with her order in January 2007 to ban smoking in the Speaker’s Lobby. In the past, Members had used the lobby as a place to relax with a cigarette or cigar. Now they can only smoke on the adjacent balcony.

In the years since, smoking has been restricted to 25 feet from buildings (though that rule is largely ignored), and House shops have stopped selling cigarettes. In March, the House Administration Committee decided to close the smoking rooms; more than five months later, the House Building Commission approved the move and the AOC announced their closure Monday.

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the rooms will be closed as of midnight Thursday. Workers will then begin painting and cleaning the rooms. They will also replace the carpet and remove the walls of the Longworth room; right now, it is separated from the rest of the cafeteria’s seating by a glass wall. The room across from Cannon Carryout, however, will remain enclosed.

The conversion means most smokers will have to take their cigarette breaks outside. Members can technically still allow smoking in their offices, but a 2006 survey commissioned by the Chief Administrative Officer found that almost 99 percent of offices are smoke-free.

Smoking staffers seem to have migrated outside on their own in recent years. The smoking rooms — which are located in the basements of Longworth and Cannon — are usually sparsely populated.