Smoking: A Not So Diplomatic Impasse

FAR FROM THE TRAVAILS IN Bosnia or Somalia, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali faces a pressing matter closer to home: smoking at U.N. headquarters in New York. He will soon review a proposal to snuff out smoking in most of the U.N. The problem is that many delegates and staff don't particularly cotton to people telling them to put out their butts. In the Delegates' Dining Room, for instance, a 1987 circular says "smoking will generally be discouraged." But ashtrays and matches are still on nearly every table. Even an outright ban on smoking in small conference rooms isn't always honored.

After all, the security staff isn't empowered to arrest people who break the rules. The U.N. is also immune from New York City's ban covering public places. That leaves peer pressure. Says Peruvian diplomat Gaston Ibanes, who smokes, but not while at the U.N.: "So many people stopped smoking that it has become an antisocial habit." Boutros-Ghali himself is trying to quit.