The Centers for Disease Control argues that indoor smoking rooms must be eradicated from airports worldwide in order to reduce risk to second-hand smoke. I take the opposite approach: I believe non-smokers are better protected though MORE indoor smoking lounges.
Whenever I write about smoking, I always begin with this disclaimer: I don’t smoke, have never smoked, and never plan on smoking. Rather, I consider it is an expensive and counterproductive habit. Even so, I believe that blanket smoking bans rarely represent the best public policy.
The CDC contends:
Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Stop right there. While the elimination of indoor smoking *may* protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke, it does not necessarily protect them.
If smokers are simply moved from indoor to outdoor, travelers may well encounter the same secondhand smoke…just in a different place.
Even as airports have taken steps to move smoking areas away from entrances and exits, my observation is that prohibitions are laxly enforced and not effective. For example, scenes like this are quite common:
I fly out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) often and routinely encounter a cloud of smoke as I enter and exit and various terminals. Ask yourself: isn’t that your experience well?
So when the CDC limits its analysis to indoor smoking (see below), it misses the point.
CDC assessed smoke-free policies at the world’s 50 busiest airports (airports with the highest number of passengers traveling through an airport in a year) as of August 2017; approximately 2.7 billion travelers pass through these 50 airports each year (4). Among these airports, 23 (46%) completely prohibit smoking indoors, including five of the 10 busiest airports. The remaining 27 airports continue to allow smoking in designated smoking areas. Designated or ventilated smoking areas can cause involuntary secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmoking travelers and airport employees.
The problem is not whether smoking is indoor or outdoors. The problem is where to best position smoking areas to minimize secondhand smoke.
Why Indoor Smoking May Be Better Than Outdoor
Noting the problem of secondhand smoke routinely experienced at all the major airports, I would much rather see an outdoor ban than prohibiting small indoor smoking chambers or outdoor terraces on the secure side.
First, separately-ventilated indoor smoking rooms or outdoor patios expose less people to second-hand smoke. Creating an area people must seek out inherently limits exposure. The common objection to this is that airport workers must clean this area and be involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke. But installing ashtrays receptacles that automatically empty (sort of like a trash chute in an apartment building) greatly reduces the incidence of lingering smoke. Pollution from automobile exhaust is far worse. These lounges could be closed for cleaning (like the smoking room in the KLM Crown Lounge in Amsterdam) to further reduce second-hand smoke.
Second, indoor smoking represents a tremendous revenue opportunity. Tobacco companies spend millions on indoor smoking rooms around the world and are eager to work with airports to accommodate their customers. Noting that indoor smoking may actually reduce the incidence of second-hand smoke, why not take advantage of a win-win situation? Use steep rental fees to fund other airport projects. The result: less smoke, happier travelers, more airport amenities.
Finally, forcing smokers to exit the secure area of the airport every time they need a smoke during a layover or before a flight clogs security for all of us. We see that airport security lines often are burdensome. Adding smokers into the mix further snarls these lines. The lack of secure-side smoking areas also increases air rage…just talk to a smoker who has not had a fix and doesn’t have time for a smoke between flights.
From a broader perspective, I join the CDC’s hope for a smoke-free world one day. But let’s be honest: that won’t happen. It just won’t. Austria just voted to undo its indoor smoking ban set to go into effect next year. Over 30% of German youth smoke cigarettes. Smoking is very ingrained in societies around the world, both eastern and western. And thus the question becomes how to best deal with. My view is clear: smoking inside airports is a better alternative than smoking outside airports.
> Read More: Why I Mourn the Loss of Airport Smoking Lounges
Smoking lounges in the US can no longer be built due to the litigious nature of US society.
*FEWER, not “less.”
Miss Skinner would be so disappointed.
I’m a smoker also based in LA. I know there are smoking areas between terminals, but they’re obnoxiously placed. I try to get as far from the doors as possible, and smoke when there aren’t a ton of people. If there are a lot of people on the sidewalk, or if there are babies, I’ll step into the street (or just stomp the cigarette out). Just because we want people to stop doing something doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make reasonable accommodations for them. It helps everyone. I was just at LAS, and they have a smoking cube with slot machines in it. The ventilation they use is so efficient that when the doors opened you didn’t smell anything. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
i (a non-smoker myself) loves those smoking spaces inside LAS too – they get to smoke and i get to breathe relatively cleaner air, so everyone is happy.
But the best advances are still inside some of the newest casinos where the ventilation is so good you can have people smoking in your vicinity and still won’t smell anything. Older ones like MGM Grand needed to install mini-fans at each table to prevent the dealers from inhaling too much of it.
I’m with Matthew on this. His points are valid, but the big one is that many smokers won’t risk exiting security during a connection to smoke unless they have a lot of time. If people can grab a smoke without exiting the terminal, they will do so, which means less people freaking out over needing a smoke, which in turn means a calmer, more pleasant experience for everyone. I’m an ex smoker and my wife still smokes, so I see and have been in everyone’s shoes here.
I have yet to see a indoor smoking pen that doesn’t leak out into the surrounding gate area. In EU, I can smell those pens a mile away. The idea that we should add more smoking areas because the ban on smoking is working TOO WELL in airports is…well, just backwards.
The new ones in Germany. Not the old ones, but the new ones.
Have to agree, I’ve seen those, they work well…
Personally I can’t wait to expirience the cigar lounge at DBX on my emirates first flight! That being said, until they make cigarettes illegal, I wish the government would get out of the way and let businesses accommodate their customers as they see fit. Keep the lounges if the airport wants to. Keep the outside smoking if they want to. Get rid of the lounges if that’s what their customers want. I am an ex smoker of 20 yrs, but I stand up for personal freedoms and liberties, especially legal ones.
As someone who is allergic to cigarette smoke — in that it triggers migraines which are not only unpleasant but cost me upwards of $100 per shot to resolve — I think we should ban all smoking in public areas. Not that I want to stop anyone from smoking in private — chew, smoke, drink whatever — but for those of us and there are many — with asthma, migraines, and other conditions that are worsened by smoke — including the smell of cigarette smoke in many cases — choosing to smoke means risking immediate harm to others. If you can build a smoking lounge where the occupants won’t reek of smoke when they emerge to sit next to everyone else on the plane, great. Otherwise save your smoking for when it only impacts you and those who consent to share your space.
Put ona mask like the Asians. Last I checked smoking is legal. And better than zanex for the smoker. You are actually just whining And coming up excuse as in honesty car exhaust is WAY WORSE for you, ie run your car within closed garage= death. Set 10 smojer gabbing and lighting up like freight train for 2x the amount of time we are all still breathing and shootn the Shit while the 1 car guy has now passed on.
So why should you care where we smoke? Don’t much care where you go if you are outside there will be exhaust fumes and sounds like according to statistics and your comment unless you never leave your air purified home you have a constant migraine. Every time you think about opening the front door
Well said. Very reasonable .
Let’s just ban everything anyone is allergic to from all public areas.
I can no even begin to express How absolutely irritating it is when You HAVE TO go outside. Then have to Go through security check again!!!..
They have a place for your dog to shit but not a place for a smoker this is Bullshit.. Like Right now I’m at the Dallas Airport an there is no place to smoke an all the food is after the security check… So a smoker can not get food or drink without going thought it again.. I’m stuck here for 3 hours…