Smoking lounges disappearing from US airports

The tobacco industry objects to the move, saying they have a right to serve their millions of customers.

By Bruce Kennedy Jan 15, 2013 10:27AM

Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Caption: A 'No Smoking' sign is seen as an United Airlines aircraft prepares to take off from the international airport in San Francisco, CaliforniaThere's only one public indoor space in the entire state of Colorado where a person can legally smoke cigarettes -- a designated lounge at Denver International Airport. And soon, even that spot will be just a memory.

The airport closed three of its four smoking lounges last year. The final lounge will close for good when its lease expires in 2018.

The news comes less than a month after an air quality study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at five major American airports with smoking lounges. According to the report, limiting smoking to the designated lounges doesn’t eliminate non-smokers’ exposure to second-hand smoke.

Time Magazine reports that in 2011, about 15% of all U.S. air travel took place at the five airports in question: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Denver International and Salt Lake City International Airport.

Still, anti-smoking forces appear to be gaining -- fueled by greater public awareness and a tobacco industry whose marketing practices were tightly reined in by the landmark 1998 settlement that awarded billions of dollars to all 50 U.S. states.

In 2002, only 13 of the nation’s large large-hub airports had smoke-free policies. But the American Nonsmoker’s Rights Foundation says that, as of January 2013, 29 of the nation’s 35 top airports are smoke-free indoors.

Federal law bans smoking on all U.S. domestic and international commercial flights -- but there’s no federal policy requiring airports to be smoke-free.

And some tobacco producers, according to the CDC, "have promoted and paid for separately enclosed and ventilated smoking areas in airports and have opposed efforts to implement smoke-free policies in airports."

The CDC estimates about 20% of people in the U.S., more than 45 million men and women, smoke cigarettes. And the tobacco companies say they have right to serve their consumers.

Philip Morris International (PM), one of the world’s largest tobacco companies, says it agrees the effects of second-hand smoke require some restrictions on smoking in public places, as well as smoking bans in many locations.

However, the company notes, "a balance should be struck. . . between the desire to protect non-smokers, especially minors, from exposure to second-hand smoke, and allowing the millions of people who smoke to do so in some public places."

Last year, British American Tobacco (BTI) defended what it called its right "to engage transparently on issues affecting its legitimate business selling a legal, highly regulated product that many adults choose to use."

And of course there’s the issue of smokers still needing a place to light up, even in a supposedly smoke-free airport.

"It’s been our experience that people will smoke in the public areas if they are not given a [separate] place," Barbara Gann, spokeswoman for Salt Lake City International Airport, recently told the Salt Lake Tribune. "For example, employees and passengers alike will smoke in the public restrooms, or in front of the terminals ­-- which then causes people to walk through it."

"Smoking is still legal in this country," notes a 2012 Denver Post editorial that questions the closing of the Denver airport's smoking lounges. "Asking smokers to go for hours at a time -- longer if there are delays and layovers involved -- strikes us as punitive."

More on Money Now

Jan 15, 2013 1:50PM
Anybody ever heard of an exhaust fan?
Jan 15, 2013 1:50PM

I quit smoking almost 10 years ago and I have sympathy for smokers. Asking a smoker to go without for any length of time is like asking a non-smoker to abstain from breathing, eating or going to the bathroom. It can't be done. Regardless of how you feel about smokers, the fact is, they are addicted. People who have never smoked don't have a clue.


Whiney nonsmokers are ignorant, intolerant, wimpy a-holes who think the world revolves around them.

Jan 15, 2013 1:48PM

If its in it own little area, not hurting non-smokers, whats the big deal? People just like to bi*ch.


Jan 15, 2013 1:46PM
umm...i dont want to be in the plane with any of these nicotine addicts who cant get their fix before they board.  it is a really stupid idea!!!!!
Jan 15, 2013 1:44PM
Where does Obama smoke if it is illegal in government facilities?
Jan 15, 2013 1:43PM
All you self rightous prigs out there don't realize that you may stink, and are offensive in some way as well.
Jan 15, 2013 1:38PM
I am a smoker and I go in and out of security NUMEROUS times just to smoke outside, especially if it is a long layover or cold outside.  I am not alone in this practice.  The extra workers needed to scan and screen the same people over and over makes absolutely no sense to me not to mention the fact that more people going through security increases the chances of someone or something being missed thus increasing terroristic risks to all parties in the airport & airplanes.   Designated smoking areas inside the airport is the only sensible solution or designating an outdoor smoking area accessible only to those parties who have already gone through security.
Jan 15, 2013 1:36PM
Its addictive. The 2nd hand smoke is poisonous. But it should never be illegal. Take a cue from the smart people who smoke pot - figure out how to get your fix without smoking.
Jan 15, 2013 1:35PM
It's about damn time!! I'm deathly allergic to smoke and really loathe people who smoke cancer sticks!!   Smoking should be banned altogether!!  I don't give a **** what you smokers say, feel or act.  Sooner or later? You smokers are going to wind up with lung cancer or heart attack requiring triple by pass surgery.... I know... I've seen them come in the hospital because I work as an RN in Onocology.   If you want to fill your lungs with black tar that chokes off your breathing, some um if you got um!! but know this: In the end? You will have lung cancer...... and please.. don't tell me that you or someone you know smoked for years and that they are healthy blah blah blah.....don't the long run? They will get sick. 
Jan 15, 2013 1:31PM
I always wondered, how much tax money would be lost if we all quit smoking today.  
Jan 15, 2013 1:29PM
I have friends in the airline industry that tell me secrets,,, guess who gets to smoke on the plane behind the cockpit door,,,,,,, give up ????,,,,the folks flying the plane and the folks serving you drinks know how to "fix" the smoke detectors in the cockpit and the bathroom so they can have in-flight smokie treats,,,,, if your a passenger and you disable the smoke detector ya get arrested.   
Jan 15, 2013 1:29PM

In Charlotte, NC you have to be 100 feet from the airport to smoke.  I don't think that smoking should be allowed in airports, hospitals, etc. 


Jan 15, 2013 1:28PM
Sad comment on our US society: the most intolarant people in the world. We are all the most important person in the room...No wonder mediocraty is our future...  
Jan 15, 2013 1:22PM

This Is  America well at least i thought it was

Jan 15, 2013 1:16PM

EVERY SINGLE DAY! More and MORE big brother taketh AWAY!!! BYE BYE FREEDOMS


Jan 15, 2013 1:15PM
Pretty ridiculous considering the pollution generated by airports is HUGE and Jet fuel is at the top of the list for killer toxic exposure.   What this is a 'feel good' mentality.  They can't do crap to clean up the air so they make themselves feel better by going after a minority, i.e. individuals and blaming them for polluting the air.   It's the same 'too big to fail' attitude that allows the Banks and Wall Street to continue to rip us off while the poor are blamed for the state of the country.

Get on your bikes and ride if you really gave a crap about the air or take a train.  The air pollution caused every time a plane takes off negates the bitch factor regarding cigarette smoke.

Being a Smoke Nazi does not improve anyone's air quality, riding a bike, taking a train and forgoing air travel does.  
Jan 15, 2013 1:13PM

A sign of the times--smoking is not as accepted as it used to be.

I am glad, as I was when the restaurants went smoke-free. If you want to put smoke and junk in your lungs and poisons in your bloodstream, no need to subject other people who are trying to live without that.


Jan 15, 2013 1:10PM

Non-smokers have the whole f'g world... we can't have one little room?   Get a life.

Jan 15, 2013 1:07PM
some pussy has found a new allergy...
Jan 15, 2013 1:06PM
Why don't the airports offer a farting section?  To me, smoking and farting are in the same league.  Both are nasty, smelly, and low class.
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