A Senate subcommittee agreed today to permanently prohibit cigarette smoking on all domestic airline flights, expanding the ban on smoking on trips of two hours or less.
The restrictions were included in an $11.9-billion spending bill for fiscal 1990 transportation programs that the panel adopted by unanimous voice vote. The smoking ban was not even debated.
Senate sponsor Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) predicted that his proposal will become law.
"I see us headed toward a total ban on smoking on airplanes, and I believe it will happen this year," he said after the subcommittee vote.
The vote spelled yet another defeat for the tobacco industry and edged health groups and airline employee unions a step closer toward another victory.
On Aug. 3, the House voted to make permanent the ban on flights of two hours or less, a prohibition that covers 80% of all U.S. routes. The restriction will otherwise expire next April.
At the time, sponsor Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) lost a bid to have the House consider a permanent ban on all domestic routes.
Supporters of the ban argue that with the recirculated air of airline cabins, nonsmoking passengers face the risk of lung cancer and other diseases by breathing cigarette smoke.
Opponents have claimed that health hazards from the fumes are unproven and that the ban hurts people who rely on cigarette sales for their jobs.