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Vol. LXI, No. 10
May 15, 2009

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Have aquestion about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: Every day, I walk to campus as I live about 10 minutes away. I consider this a healthy alternative to driving—both for me and the environment. Well, I used to think it was healthy. Every day since the Tobacco-Free Campus initiative, I have to run a gauntlet of smokers (sometimes 12 at a time) standing directly at the pedestrian entrances. I’m very frustrated as I strongly believe this is a violation of my human rights. These people are choosing to smoke—I have no such choice. I have to pass through clouds of smoke. Even if you try to avoid them and go through the vehicular entrance/exit, the NIH Police drag you back and tell you to go through the card readers. As NCI says, “There are no acceptable levels of second hand smoke”—so why isn’t NIH protecting its nonsmokers? I cannot enter or leave campus without exposure to second-hand smoke. I feel this tobacco-free initiative strives to make smokers healthier at the expense of nonsmokers. It used to be that people couldn’t smoke within 25 feet of campus buildings—why not make them stand 25 feet from the pedestrian portals? Can’t anyone help us non-smokers (wait a minute…given our daily exposure should we now be classified as smokers?)

Answer from the Office of Research Services: During development of the NIH Tobacco-Free policy, there was extensive discussion about what constitutes the NIH Bethesda campus. Senior management made the final decision that, for the purposes of this policy, the perimeter fence would be the campus boundary. When the policy went into effect last October, we received several comments/complaints about smokers standing outside the pedestrian portals. These comments were mainly about the litter but some included concerns about exposure to second-hand smoke by individuals using the portals. To address these concerns, we arranged, through the Office of Research Facilities, to have these areas cleaned on a regular basis and to place one or more butt cans outside each of the portals. To the extent possible, we located the butt cans away from the immediate entrances. This is a delicate balancing act since placing them too far away from the portals would limit their use. Since these actions were implemented, the number of comments about these issues has dropped dramatically. We encourage all individuals using the pedestrian portals to exercise common courtesy towards others by not blocking or smoking near these entrances.

Feedback: What is the status of A-76 efforts at NIH? Now that we have a new president, is the old president’s management agenda defunct? Did anyone ever come to any conclusions about the effectiveness of so-called consolidation measures, besides harming employee morale?

Answer from the NIH Deputy Director for Management: According to the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, NIH cannot perform new A-76 (outsourcing) studies during FY 2009. NIH will continue to fulfill legal requirements associated with the A-76 program, which include the preparation of the annual FAIR Act Inventory and the performance of post-competition accountability activities for the 38 completed studies. NIH is awaiting further guidance from OMB and HHS regarding the future direction of the A-76 Program and will inform the NIH community when information is available.

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