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."


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381Comments
Jan 15, 2013 2:42PM
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Bottom line: Most people in the twenty-first century don't want to be exposed to cigarette smoke, and rightfully so. I know too many people who have died from cigarette-smoking caused disease, including my mom and many of her friends. Not to mention the fact that it just plain STINKS. Seriously, it smells NASTY. I always wonder how someone isn't embarrassed to emit such stench. It really is just as bad as FART effluvium, whether smokers want to admit it or not.

 

I have always said, and will continue to say, "Smoke all you want, kill yourself if you must, just keep it away from me." Cigarette smoke is, whether anyone will admit it or not, A POISONOUS NUISANCE. I remember in college, they had a smoking lounge, and just walking past it out in the hallway was nasty. I had to tell a couple of friends, "I'm sorry, but I am NOT going in there." They were on their own. And it is true, I have seen way too many inconsiderate smokers flicking their butts out their car windows onto the street--that is LITTER. Like it or not, smokers, if you light up, I'm leaving. I don't care if we're in the middle of doing business or whatever. You light one of your stink bombs and I'm out of there. Smokers don't seem to understand the fact that THEY STINK.

 

Re-(TOG) to the third power: I've never done any of the things on your "list."

 

Reiteration: Smokers don't seem to understand the fact that THEY STINK. 

Jan 15, 2013 2:38PM
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PEOPLE WILL GO POSTAL WITHOUT THEIR NICOTINE AND PROBLEMS OF VIOLENCE WILL HAPPEN IN THE AIRPORTS AND ON PLANES.

Jan 15, 2013 2:38PM
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If they want to take away indoor smoking areas, they should open smoking balconies.  As long as they give ample doors back inside just in case people need to evacuate, I don't see the issue.  The TSA should be up in arms about this because their guards will be worked that much more when smokers go outside and then come back in and have to go through the security checkpoint again.  Airports will have a much cleaner appearance outside if they have smoking lounges inside.  They won't have people complaining about having to walk through a "cloud of smoke" to get into the airport.  Rather than just doing away with an amenity, come up with alternatives.
Jan 15, 2013 2:38PM
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Smoking still at over 20% mostly young stupid kids - can't walk outside without smoking someone else's butt - then they'll go on free ObamaCare for Lung cancer

Jan 15, 2013 2:37PM
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Well i think we should ban all bars and alcohol. Ruins your liver...and makes people act like idiots.What do you think of that? We smokers dont like drunk idiots, that smell like a bottle of jim beam!
Jan 15, 2013 2:37PM
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Here is the magic question, when does non-smokers rights infringe upon my rights? I do not want to kill all non-smokers with 2nd hand smoke, but the government is now infringing upon my rights of freedom of choice. I do not mind going outside for a smoke, but dammit show some respect and at least have some cover and heat or a/c depending on weather. I'm a human too!
Jan 15, 2013 2:36PM
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So you can sit in an airport bar and get completely hammered, but you can't sit back and enjoy a cigarette?
Jan 15, 2013 2:36PM
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I can't wait until we can start throwing off the airplane people who use too much perfume,unruly kids and those who don't know what a bath is.
Jan 15, 2013 2:36PM
Jan 15, 2013 2:35PM
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Whether you smoke or not, its control,control,control. Find areas away from the crowd and let them smoke, but we need to quit letting the government decide for us. And that applies to a lot of laws that we are railroaded into, for our own good ,ie. nicotine, sugar law, ect,ect..
Jan 15, 2013 2:31PM
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They mentioned that 20% of the population smokes.  I don't know if that includes children, but even if it doesn't, then if all 20% of those people decided to not utilize air travel, then airlines (and ultimately airports) would lose over 25% of their revenue.  Personally, I don't fly very often.  I choose to drive because I don't have all these regulations that they've put in airports.  I can light up whenever I want.  I have my choice of what kind of food I want to eat.  I don't have to put up with sitting next to someone who hasn't showered in a week.  And I don't have to have some guy trying to feel me up every time I get in my car.  This is only more of a reason to drive as opposed to flying.  The only thing is that the cops out there are more interested in finding people talking on their phone than people doing things that actually endanger the public (i.e. speeding).

Jan 15, 2013 2:26PM
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It is my right to be able to not breathe in cigarrette smoke, why should I get cancer from your choice to smoke?
Jan 15, 2013 2:26PM
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It is in the nature of addiction. Sadly, and as we all know nicotine is highly addictive. This means that the chemical interferes with that part of the brain that exercises judgment and impulse control and which causes smokers to think that they will derive some joy/pleasure/release out of it. It is that mental phenomenon which underlies all these issues. Most of us being fully aware of the damage that tobacco causes, as a culture, it should astound all of us that tobacco is not an entirely controlled substance. It demonstrates the terrible failure of our democratic process that tobacco consumption remains legal, that the big tobacco companies are still permitted to sell a viciously addictive and cancer causing product which impacts our health care system in the hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Sooner or later, as a society, we should wake up and do the right thing. Personally, I am a smoker, and yes, I am inconvenienced by these closures. Maybe I should be. There is substantial statistical support for the notion that quitting smoking is more difficult than breaking an addiction to heroin and/or methamphetamines....
Jan 15, 2013 2:26PM
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How many billons of dollars a year would disappear with out those cigarette smokers the economy would collapse

Jan 15, 2013 2:24PM
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Everybody is going on about guns when over 53000 people die every year from exposure to second hand smoke. 

I respect a smokers right to smoke as long as they respect my right to breath and not have to smell or be exposed to their poison.
Jan 15, 2013 2:19PM
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Maybe people should take a look at their unhealthy habits.  When you have a habit that requires you to be let outside like a dog, maybe it's time to drop that habit.
Jan 15, 2013 2:16PM
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Having a smoking section anywhere in a building is pretty much the same as having a peeing section in a pool. 
Jan 15, 2013 2:16PM
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Non-Smokers have the whole f***ing world. I disagree strongly. Cigarette butts can be found on nearly every area of the planet that is inhabited. And I cannot walk down the street or go to a beach without breathing poison cigarette smoke. I have to breathe stinky smoke in my own bedroom as my neighbors smoke constantly blows in my windows.
Jan 15, 2013 2:16PM
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Oh yeah--lets ALL band together and do something about the 2nd hadd somke that WILL KILL YA!!! --- It WILL EFFECT EVERY FACET OF YOUR LIFE!!!  

But ---Marijuana on the other hand is safe, secure, gives you peace of mind, brings new tax dollars, Tr la--tr la--tr la!

Jan 15, 2013 2:16PM
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Tampa has an outside, caged in balcony for smokers. Works well.
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