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News Briefs, part 2

Past, Present Surgeon Generals Endorse Secondhand Smoke Bill

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and five of her predecessors added their endorsement Monday to a Clinton administration-backed plan to protect Americans from the dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke by severely restricting smoking in most of the nation's public buildings.

Legislation introduced by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., would prohibit smoking in public buildings used regularly by more than 10 people unless separately ventilated rooms were provided for smokers.

Waxman's subcommittee on health and the environment -- part of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- held a hearing Monday on the bill, known as the Smoke-Free Environment Act of 1993.

Last year, an Environmental Protection Agency study identified secondhand smoke as a deadly carcinogen and blamed it for 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually in adults and as many as 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children.

The gathering of Elders and the former surgeons general -- Antonia C. Novello, C. Everett Koop, Julius B. Richmond, S. Pail Ehrlich and Jesse L. Steinfeld -- marked the first time they had met to support a single piece of legislation.

But Tobacco Institute consultant Charles O. Whitley claimed that testimony favoring a ban on smoking in public buildings was based on old reports and questionable EPA studies.

Crime in L.A. Dropped Sharply after Quake

Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles

In the aftermath of last month's earthquake, thousands of police officers, sheriff's deputies and National Guard troops helped keep criminals off the streets in record numbers, according to internal police records.

Day-by-day records gathered by the Los Angeles Police Department and obtained by the Los Angeles Times show that so-called repressible crime -- those crimes that experts say can be deterred by uniformed police officers -- dropped by 21.5 percent during the second half of January, the period following the Jan. 17 earthquake.

The repressible crime statistics -- which include murders, most assaults, robberies, burglaries, thefts from cars and automobile thefts -- bolster arrest numbers released by the department during the days after the earthquake and help dispel any suggestion that arrests were down only because the department was busy performing other duties rather than arresting suspects.

Moreover, while some of the decreases in reported crimes are almost certainly attributable to the outpouring of good will that followed the early-morning quake on Jan. 17, the breadth of the crime drop suggests to many analysts that the department's mobilization, which put thousands of additional officers on the streets, had a marked impact on crime in the city.

A mobilization was activated within hours of the earthquake, as officers throughout the department were ordered to work 12-hour shifts.