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Cops Called to Capitol Over Cigar Smoke

Gregory Mottola
Posted: February 15, 2007

On the evening of February 7 in the U.S. Capitol building, Colorado Republican congressman Tom Tancredo concluded the day as he often does, smoking a cigar within the confines of his own office. But as he finished the smoke and headed for the elevator, Tancredo was stopped by the Capitol Hill police. Tancredo's neighbor, freshman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) had complained to the police about Tancredo's cigar smoke.

Smoking in private offices in the Capitol is legal, and the officer assured Tancredo that he was in no violation of any law. According to Tancredo, the officer said she responded to the complaint merely as a formality.

"I have smoked cigars for 20 years," said the presidential hopeful in a conversation with Cigar Aficionado Online. "I've smoked in my office, which we are allowed to do, and I will continue to do so. In eight years I've never had anyone complain."

Tancredo wasn't pleased with the way his neighbor handled the smoke. He says that had Ellison approached him personally, he would've been more than happy to accommodate him, or at least come to some kind of agreement over the problem. Now he's determined to keep enjoying his cigars as before.

"Calling the Capitol Hill police? That is ridiculous," said Tancredo. "Of course if [Ellison] had come over, I'd have worked with him, maybe gotten a bigger air purifier. Now, he can get his own."

Tancredo said that he smokes in his office about once a week, and nothing in the law requires him to have any sort of air purifier (although he has three) or ventilation system, but he tries to be as considerate to his immediate staff as possible when smoking.

"I always ask my staff, 'is this OK? Does anyone here have asthma?'"

Ellison's complaint comes shortly after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi banned smoking in the Speaker's Lobby of the building last month.

"The lifestyle Nazis," rued Tancredo in reference to smoking-ban activists, "they're out there."

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