Starting tomorrow, cigarette smoke won't get in your eyes on most airline flights. This is because Congress has banned smoking on flights of two hours or less. ``The day of the flying cigarette pack is essentially over,'' says Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, a sponsor of the legislation. Violators of the law, which will be primarily enforced by the airlines, could be fined as much as $2,000.
At a news conference yesterday, Senator Lautenberg and others were critical of the Federal Aviation Administration for taking so long to issue regulations that were released last week. Because of the delay, he said, at least four airlines were still booking passengers into smoking sections on flights that should not have them.
Sponsors of the legislation say their aim is to expand the ban to all domestic flights. Lautenberg predicts such a prohibition will be made permanent in 1990 when the current law expires.
Lautenberg hopes the airlines will follow the example of Northwest Airlines, which voluntarily banned smoking on all of its flights last month. A Northwest representative says the ban has not hurt the airline despite efforts by the tobacco industry to disrupt its business. The airline says some tobacco companies have tried to tie-up its phones by flooding it with calls. But they say the strategy has not worked. ``Any free advertising they give us is helpful. On a net basis we're still ahead,'' Northwest's Paul Schoellhamer says.