updated 7/13/2006 7:23:37 PM ET 2006-07-13T23:23:37

Here's a new incentive for cities to go smoke-free: The government's top cancer agency could take away some tourism dollars if they don't.

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The National Cancer Institute hosts dozens of scientific meetings around the country every year, thereby bringing business to hotels, restaurants and other local attractions.

As of Jan. 1, those meetings can only take place in localities with comprehensive smoke-free policies — meaning no smoking in workplaces, including restaurants, the agency announced Thursday.

It's the first time an entire federal agency has enacted such a policy, an NCI spokeswoman said.

The decision follows the recent surgeon general's report that declared breathing any amount of someone else's tobacco smoke harmful to nonsmokers, and called for completely smoke-free buildings and public places.

NCI declared its meetings off-limits in 13 states unless they adopt stricter rules: Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia.

The agency declared 14 other states to have sufficiently strict statewide anti-smoking policies, and that the rest are home to some cities or counties that qualify.

More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans are regularly exposed to smokers' fumes, and tens of thousands die each year as a result, the government estimates.

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