Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Dear WMATA: Please protect riders from secondhand smoke

Mailboxes, Great Island, Narragansett, RI

Flickr photo courtesy of pocius

We sent a letter to WMATA today, urging it to do more to protect riders from secondhand smoke. Here is the letter:

To the Board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMTA) and WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles:

Recently, one of your riders launched a petition on calling on WMATA to, among other things, enforce its no-smoking policy. (The petition is available at We write to urge you to heed the call from your riders to protect them from secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is a health hazard. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known or suspected carcinogens, such as arsenic and benzene. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers, and exacerbates respiratory illnesses. Studies have shown that even outside, secondhand smoke exposure can be significant when nonsmokers are near active smokers (see

A representative of Smokefree DC, as well as a WMATA rider and a member of the Metro Riders’ Advisory Council, came to your offices in 2006 and talked to you about … this issue. We were told that “no smoking” signs would be posted throughout the system. However, this has not happened. Not only are customers still not informed that they can’t smoke on escalators, but some stations have ashtrays at the bottom of escalators, which sends the message to riders that they can, indeed, smoke on escalators.

We ask that you immediately do the following:

1) Install “No Smoking” signs at all station entrances, escalators, passageways, outdoor train platforms and bus stations throughout the Metro system;

2) Remove all ashtrays from the system or move them farther from entrances and exits; and

3) Install “No Smoking within 25 feet” signs at all station exits and bus shelters, working with local jurisdictions if necessary to post the signs.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to your response.

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