Statement of Robert Lemons, Building Owners and Managers Association

Introduction

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Robert Lemons. I am president of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Boston. I am also Senior Vice President of Spaulding & Slye,an integrated real estate services company specializing in office, research and development, industrial, and retail space.

Today I am representing our national organization, BOMA International. BOMA is North America's largest and oldest trade association exclusively representing the office building industry. Its 16,000 members own or manage over 6 billion square feet of commercial property.

Smoking Indoors: A Major Concern for Buildings

Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today. We commend you for your leadership in addressing the important issue of smoking indoors.

BOMA has a strong concern about second-hand smoke in buildings. Most Americans spend the majority of their day indoors, and building owners and managers have a responsibility to their tenants to provide a healthy indoor environment.

The health risks posed by second-hand smoke are beyond dispute. Since 1993, it has been classified as a Group A carcinogen by the U.S. EPA, which concluded that secondhand smoke causes as many as 3,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.

More and more evidence bolsters such findings. A study conducted last fall by the California Environmental Protection Agency concluded that second-hand smoke is responsible for as many as 62,000 deaths from heart disease, 2,700 deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and 2,600 new cases of asthma a year. The U.S. Surgeon General's Office has termed the California study "the single best, comprehensive review of the adverse effects of environmental tobacco smoke." (A Business Week article highlighting these findings is included as Attachment A.)

Clearly, steps are needed to protect office building tenants, their employees, guests, and clients who may be exposed to this known carcinogen.

BOMA Supports Title IV of Proposed Settlement

BOMA International believes that the most effective course of action is to prevent contaminants from being introduced into the workplace in the first place. Second-hand smoke is one of the leading contributors to indoor air pollution, and a ban on smoking in the workplace would significantly improve the quality of the air we breathe.

On a broader scale, BOMA has worked with industry groups and government agencies to disseminate sound guidance aimed at improving indoor air quality management in commercial properties. We have pushed for needed research on the sources of indoor air quality problems. Second-hand smoke is certainly one of those sources.

When the U.S. EPA first determined that second-hand smoke is a Group A carcinogen, BOMA International responded by adopting a resolution calling for a federal ban on smoking in the workplace. (A copy of this resolution is included as Attachment B.)

Title IV of the proposed tobacco industry settlement offers a responsible means for achieving this goal. It reflects the same approach as taken in the "Smoke Free Environment Act" (S.826), legislation introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg. BOMA International has strongly supported the Smoke Free Environment Act since it was first introduced in the 103d Congress.

Benefits of a Smoking Ban

Many building owners have already chosen to ban or limit smoking within their buildings even if their particular state, county or municipality has not yet made it mandatory. In a survey that BOMA International conducted last year for our publication Cleaning Makes Cents, we learned that 68% of the respondents prohibit smoking inside their building, and 29% limit it to tenant suites. Just 1% of the respondents allow smoking anywhere in their building. (See Attachment C for a summary of this survey.)

Building owners have taken these steps in response to health concerns and for other reasons as well. Safety, for example, is a sometimes overlooked factor. According to BOMA's Fire Safety Survey, conducted last in 1993, smoking was the leading cause of fires in buildings, cited by 26% of the respondents. (An article outlining these results is included as Attachment D.)

The elimination of smoking from buildings has yet another benefit. It reduces cleaning expenses by an average of 10% -- quite a chunk considering that cleaning makes up 13% of the average building's total annual expenses. A property with a no-smoking policy has no need to clean ashtrays and cigarette butts; requires fewer filter changes; sees a reduction in wall cleaning and painting; and needs less frequent dusting and vacuuming.

Separately Ventilated Smoking Areas

Because of the health and liability concerns associated with second-hand smoke, the ideal course of action is to eliminate smoking in buildings completely.

Experience indicates, however, that some tenants may want their employees to be able to smoke within their leased premises. The solution in this case is for the parties involved to agree to the creation of a separate designated area, exhausted directly to the outdoors and maintained under negative pressure. This arrangement, which would be allowed under Title IV of the proposed tobacco settlement, is also provided for in the Smoke Free Environment Act, which BOMA supports.

Currently, most office buildings do not have separately ventilated areas. Between 8 to 12% of respondents to BOMA surveys indicate that their building has such an area - but we cannot verify at this time what portion of those rooms actually meet the definition of being "ventilated directly to the outdoors."

We can confirm that the build-out of such areas is extremely expensive and may be technically infeasible in some cases. The U.S. General Services Administration has estimated the design and installation of separate ventilation systems in a new building to cost $30-$50 per square foot. For an existing building, figures provided by BOMA members indicate much higher costs - over $100 per square foot for the actual build-out, plus a similar amount based on the installation of furnishings, floor and wall coverings.

Developing Legislative Language

BOMA recommends that, in developing legislative language to implement Title IV of the proposed tobacco settlement, the Environment and Public Works Committee incorporate S. 826, the Smoke Free Environment Act. In particular, we draw your attention to the issue of which entities are responsible for administering a smoking ban in buildings.

In multi-tenant buildings, it is reasonable to expect the property owner or manager to implement a smoking ban in "common areas" of the building - in other words, those areas that are not leased to a particular tenant. Similarly, it is reasonable to expect the tenants themselves to implement a smoking ban within their own leased premises. S. 826 defines the term "responsible entity" to clarify this issue.

Building management will take the necessary steps to implement a smoking ban and educate tenants on the health risks associated with second-hand smoke. However, we cannot take responsibility for building occupants who refuse to comply with the ban. If an individual (who is not an employee of the building owner or manager) chooses to smoke in violation of the smoking ban, the property's owner or manager should not be held liable, since the person is not under their direct control. This issue is addressed by a paragraph in S. 826 entitled "Isolated Incidents," which clarifies that such incidents should not be considered violations of the smoking ban subject to penalty.

Conclusion

The removal of second-hand smoke would protect building occupants by eliminating a recognized source of indoor air quality problems, a fire safety hazard, and a liability concern for owners and tenants alike.

BOMA will continue to do everything we can to reduce - and ideally eliminate - the threat posed by second-hand smoke in commercial buildings.

Mr. Chairman, we thank you for your interest in this issue and in our recommendations for crafting legislative language to make the proposed smoking ban a reality. I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.