A sweeping new anti-smoking ordinance will snuff out indoor smoking at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. I think it’s a terrible idea.
Atlanta will ban smoking in all indoor areas, including restaurants and bars throughout the city, effective January 02, 2020. That ban will also cover ATL as well, which currently offers a number of indoor smoking rooms throughout the airport.
This issue comes up from time to time and I’ve written about it on several occasions in the past. I think it is always important to note that I am not a smoker, have never smoked a cigarette in my life, and do not ever plan on smoking. I view it as a disgusting and expensive habit with horrific health ramifications.
At the same time, the great crusade to end smoking will not be won by making life a pain for everyone. Allow me to explain. Smoking remains a fact of life around the world. That will not change in our lifetimes and we are left with a startling statistic: even with the seemingly endless campaigns to reduce and eradicate smoking in the east and west, about 20% of the world’s population smokes. That’s over 1 billion people!
A Better Alternative
Thus, we have a choice. Herd them outside to stink up the air outside doors (because who obeys the 20 foot rule in practice?) and clog security lines or provide designated self-ventilating areas inside airport terminals that subject far fewer unwilling participants to second hand smoke? Don’t believe me? Just step outside the door in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago and take a big whiff. The air is putrid.
Most of the largest airports in the world – HKG, DOH, DXB, AUH, NRT, FRA, and even LHR still have smoking areas. If an airport really serves as a gateway to the world, this is exactly how it should be. Los Angeles (LAX) banned all airside smoking for a few years, but quietly brought it back in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. How could it not when so many passengers from Asia and Europe were smokers? It clogged TSA lines, creating backlog and stress for all travelers, not just smokers.
The stress caused by denying smokers a place to smoke cannot be downplayed. Unfortunately, shrinking seat pitch and generally customer-unfriendly airline policies bring out the worst in us when we fly. The inability to relieve that stress will not only clog airport security lines, but create more air rage.
A Missed Revenue Opportunity
Finally, cash-starved airports are really missing out on a great revenue opportunity. There’s always so much hypocrisy around tobacco; governments love to regulate it despite their addiction to tobacco revenue.
Anyway, tobacco companies are very happy to install state-of-art self-ventilating facilities. They pay rent on the space. Imagine charging tobacco companies extra rent for the space then charging smokers a few bucks to enter the smoking lounge. That’s revenue that can be used to reduce the incidence of smoking or on other important public projects.
I’m very much in favor of smoking areas in airports. In my own travels around the world, those more civil airports with smoking facilities mean I have to smell second-hand smoke much less.
Are you in favor of designated smoking areas inside airports? If not, why not?
> Read More: Why I Mourn the Loss of Airport Smoking Lounges
> Read More: We Need More Airport Smoking Lounges, Not Fewer
image: ATL Airport
Ha this might be the first time I ever agree with you! Agree that it’s crazy how many people still smoke and agree that there’s an opportunity here for someone to make a few bucks off it!
This will make long-haul flights especially difficult for smokers and will likely increase the rate of people trying to bypass smoking or vaping restrictions on planes. Not a smart move.
If smokers can’t smoke anywhere public, eventually the nasty habit will die down. That and only selling cigarettes to 21 year olds with ID as some states are going to. Not really sure how kids start smoking these days…
Hows that been working for heroin, crack, and other opioids? Not sold anywhere legally, yet were told theres and epidemic among us.
Kids smoke the way they always did–getting into parents’ stash, older siblings, etc. It’s not about society today! And, if you think deterring smokers in public places will cause them to quit, you are deluding yourself. It is a strong addiction which is hard to beat. One answer may be the outrageous prices being paid per pack these days…that’s enough to make me think twice about whether or not I really need one!
Who do we complain to? Something needs said now. I will vote against my city councilman next year.
Throw out the City Council. Ask your councilman to go on the record.
The more airports that ban it the better. My suggestion is ‘quit!’
I’m glad they finally catching on. Find a new hustle besides killing someone with the cigarettes.
I agree. Just bought a few tobacco stocks. I subtly encourage young people I meet to pick up smoking.
Find it ironic that many people who say “it’s the situation” with regard to other addictions – pushing for public spending on programs, trying to de stigmatize them, but immediately say ‘quit’ and ‘nowhere in public’ with regard to smoking.
I don’t know what the right answer is but a lot of people suddenly become experts on how to handle tobacco addiction when public, well contained venues come into play.
Ur full of it- has any other ‘nasty’ habit died down! No!!! We have MORE drugs than EVER plus several ‘puffing’ devices….oh but, for Gods sake, male POT legal! Totally alters the brain snd some of us- YES MEEE. A SMOKER, is highly allergic to it!!! U can go be killed in War for a Govmt u dont trust- but u cant buy cigs??? Absolutely makes sense. WTF are u all thinking??
First of all, I don’t smoke but my husband does, and has for 45 year’s, and yes it is a bad habit it also an addiction, and he has to have a smoke,after a long flight, or something, just to unstress him,some people drink,some do drugs,some keep their face in there electronics, some just like to put there nose in every bodies business,just leave the smokers alone give a dam spot, to smoke! The last I heard this is still America, you people need to get a life and stop, putting other people that don’t do what you, makes them bad people so let’s take their rights away. All I can say is get a LIFE!
Agree… It is misguided “big brotherhood” at it’s worst. I am also a non-smoker, but find a measure such as this at an international gateway is making things more difficult.
If public health was the true issue, why not also ban all alcoholic beverages? Look at all the behavioral and health problems alcohol brings with it.
Which is one reason I frequently underscore alcohol-related issues onboard on this blog. It’s such a double-standard. People just don’t like the smell of tobacco smoke…but should be honest about it.
i dont like ppl’s loud perfume….. it isnt banned. I will bet there are LOTS of missed flights. This being an International Hub…… i just flew 20 hrs to find out i cant smoke- and dont have time to make it back through TSA…BUTTTT have 1:30 min WAIT! IM LIVID AND WILL NEVERRR USED ATL AGAIN!
Finally someone agrees with what I’ve been saying all along–alcohol related accidents kill more people each year than smoking. I personally worked for an airline and saw a man deplane totally intoxicated and proceeded to hitting 5 parked cars on the way out of the lot.
But, to the point, having lounges (or not) is never going to stop someone who needs a cigarette whether it be a long layover, fear of flying, stress, etc. A lounge prevents second hand smoke. If you don’t want to breathe it, don’t go into the lounge period. It beats having to go outside, get back in line and so on. Having a 10 hour layover in LAX is no picnic.
“It clogged TSA lies…”
A Freudian slip of epic proportions…
Anyway, I agree with you on this one. I don’t want to be subjected to cigarette smoke, but I’ve never seen an issue with the airport smoking rooms. Those are simple to avoid. Not so much the cloud of smoke wafting 5 feet from the building entrance when everyone is forced outside…
lol. I’ll fix that.
Matthew, I totally agree with you. And I applaud you for being a non-smoker who can view this issue objectively. Tobacco is a legal product and people smoke. As an adult, that’s their choice. And providing space for them to do their thing in a place where non-smokers are not disturbed is the logical thing to do. Otherwise, many will smoke in undesirable locations where others will be annoyed by it. But this is typical government: they pick winners and losers and happen to know better than anyone else.
Lovely. Now we’ll have to deal with the toxic byproduct of these addicts when going to the bathroom now at ATL.
This cannot be underscored enough. Some people are not going to bother to go outside and will smoke in the restrooms. Count on it. Just like in London…
As a former pack-a-day smoker for 15 years (I started at age 13), allow me to share my perspective. Anything that makes this disgusting, dangerous and collectively expensive habit harder to maintain is a win. NYC in particular saw a drastic reduction in smoking (especially among youth) in the last 20 years through aggressively making it harder to smoke in public places and buy tobacco products affordably. I myself finally saw the light after my third bout of bronchitis in 18 months and my ever-lessening bank balances due to $13 a pop going to cigarette packs daily.
Unfortunately, all of that progress is now going down the drain as vaping takes hold—which has been shown in studies to draw users directly into smoking cigarettes long-term.
Smoking contributes to a massive drain on the public health sector which we all end up subsidizing in the long run through our taxes and insurance costs. Social pressure is a proven tool to end this addiction outright or at least drive smokers to consider cessation options. Good for ATL for catching up with the rest of the developed world.
Appreciate your perspective. Thanks for sharing and congrats on overcoming that vile habit. A couple thoughts. What about for people who don’t want to quit? Second, I wouldn’t say that ATL is “catching up with the rest of the developed world”. As I mention in my article, most of the developed world (across Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East) offers smoking rooms in airports. The exceptions seem to be the USA and Australia/New Zealand/Canada.
You are definitely correct. I suppose I meant my congratulations to the city of Atlanta as a whole. I was surprised to learn they even allowed indoor smoking still. My home state, a major tobacco producer historically, outlawed it long ago.
As for someone who didn’t want to quit, I would say the same thing as I’ve told advocates of buying guns seamlessly and at free will—as long as you have the right, I will defend it. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a walk in the park for you.
I am certainly not a libertarian in the least. I think governments have a responsibility to protect people from their own self-destructive intentions. Thus, speed limits, warning labels, etc.
As for Aztec’s comment below, yes, the obesity epidemic is certainly a substantial drain on public health and we are all paying the cost. But I think shame is in the eye of the beholder. I would advocate for simply making unhealthy food and eating less prevalent in our society. Calorie counts displayed on menus have been a good start. Eliminating food and nutrition deserts for our poorest and least educated areas of the country would be a great next step.
What about being fat? That also puts a very large drain (possibly larger than does smoking) on the public health sector. Should we shame people waiting in line at Burger King?
I managed to not smoke without all of the governmental intrusions.
Your comment about vaping is grossly inaccurate: the REAL decline in smoking around the world is in part a consequence of an uptake in vaping, as many long term smokers have quit tobacco and use the ecigs instead. There is not a single study showing a correlation between vaping and an increase in traditional cigarette smoking.
I don’t argue that vaping is safe, and certainly not to be encouraged. The vaping industry has done itself no favours by promoting vape flavours that will appeal to teenagers ( eg, bubblegum, candy, cola, cookies etc) and get them hooked. It’s quite wicked ( and no coincidence that ‘big tobacco ‘ is investing in ecig techonogy).
Look around airports and you will see many people vaping discreetly. No one notices: no flame, no smoke, no smell, no second hand poison.
I shouldnt’ even engage you because I’ve seen your comment history. But don’t come at me with blanket statements that are complete falsehoods.
“There is not a single study showing a correlation between vaping and an increase in traditional cigarette smoking.”
Sorry to be the devils advocate, but two of those links were to the same study—a study that clearly says that it found correlation but not causation. I think you also missed the irony of the one link which also uses data from a recent study which says that people who use vaping to quit smoking are 200% more likely to quit than those who use the patch or gum. Your link to the AHA was filled with non-scientific “conventional wisdom” which is often conventionally wrong.
I should have said “ no credible study.”
I don’t like the idea of teenagers having access to nicotine based vaping but one thing is certain: ban it and vaping will develop a certain allure in a similar way others substances have.
The Thai govt tried a ban ( probably due to lobbying from the Tobacco Monopoly), with Keystone Cops scenes of public vapers being dragged away, including unsuspecting tourists at BKK. So teenagers just do it in private now, with the frisson of it being forbidden.
I bought my first e-cig and noticed that the first ingredient was propylene glycol! I didn’t think it was anything but water vapor—this is the fluid they use to de-ice aircraft with. Think about it–vaping de-icing fluid! Every day, it seems, there appear more dangers in vaping than cigarettes, but a different type of danger. Just an FYI in case no one read the pamphlet inside.
Anything that helps keep a potential seatmate from smelling like cigarettes for a flight of any length is a win for the majority of us who do not smoke,
I just told one of my friends in Europe about about this. His response? no problem. I’ll route through other cities.
85% of all pax at ATL are passing through. So many, many pax have an option to avoid ATL. This is not well thought out. People are tired of government overreach.
Thank u!! Atl makes a MINT on selling cigarrettes. I will route elsewhere too…bc ATL puts u at the bottom on a tram- 20 miles away…..so NO u cant go smoke and make it back through TSA
Yes, smoking areas should be available inside the terminals. Running the gauntlet through the smoke haze outside is awful. If people want to smoke ( and pay the mega taxes in the process) , let them do it. They shouldn’t be shunned or be embarrassed by their choices, almost the habit “that dare not speak its name”
Copenhagen has the best smoking area I’ve seen: outside, up some stairs, with a view over the tarmac and doubles as a bar. Harmless ( for 15 minutes).
It goes without saying that the most virulent anti-smoking zealots are themselves reformed smokers. Their success in quitting is to be applauded but they become a PITA when they relate the story ad nauseam..
Impressively stupid, even by government standards. Maybe, just maybe, they should think about consequences and alternatives. For instance, have the airport create outdoor smoking areas and give them the time to build them before getting rid of the current ones. Do these idiots really think that enacting this will actually make travel less stressful? I say this as an ex-smoker, so I suppose I should be radical rather than practical, but practical makes more sense.
Even with enclosed smoking rooms inside, there will still be clouds of smoke outside from those about to depart or who have just arrived. You can see this at FRA, MUC, ICN, TLV, etc…
If smokers can fly on a 16 hour flight without smoking, they can hold out for another few hours.
I like how Changi does it, they have smoking areas on outdoor elevated patios. No second hand smoke issue and you’re not stuck in those disgusting designated broom closets. Ventilated my ass.
I was originally seated next to a heavy smoker in business class IAD-KWI. You have no idea how happy I was that the cabin was less than half full and I could move to another row. Sitting next to that smell for 13 hours would have made me sick.
I inherited my father’s suits after he passed away. It was difficult to keep them because they smelled like cigarette smoke even after dry cleaning.
The stuff is powerful particularly because in recent years they added chemicals to make it stronger and more potent but this also made the smell more pungent.
All that said, I agree with Matt that this is a legal addiction and they deserve a place to indulge in it safely. I would only add that the ventilation should be sufficient so they don’t leave smelling like an ashtray and double (additionally ventilated) doors so that they don’t carry the smoke out with them into the general terminal.
Heck, I’d add that I’d be in all in favor of fabreze style deodorizers provided AT airport expense. Yes, I’d rather pay a few cents more in airport fees if that means that someone without spare currency is given access rather than sneaking cigs in the bathroom. Other things that should be free: carts for transferring passengers, charging stations, and of course internet.
Perhaps a better idea is to discourage smoking by making smoking areas outside away from the terminal(s) and in an inconvenient location. In addition, a very expensive Nicotine Tax (on all products with nicotine) would make a lot of people quit.
This is a weird take. Do you also believe that airplanes should have smoking rooms to help alleviate the stress of passengers flying? After all, transoceanic passengers will be on the plane longer than they will be in the airport.
I don’t smoke and my objection to smoking rooms is that the enclosed space actually makes the smell worse on people’s clothes. Which I guess is fine as long as airlines allow their policies that allow for removal of passengers with body odor to include those that stink of smoke.
Of course not. Can you escape smoking areas on airplanes? Nope. Totally different situation. The key with airport smoking rooms is they subject unwilling participants to less second-hand smoke than herding smokers to the curb.
I don’t think that’s true though? Admittedly I’m SF-based and normally arrive at the airport by BART so I’m not entering my home airport through a curbside door, but even at other airports I only occasionally encounter people smoking too close to the exits. Compared to the smoking rooms in European airports that all the passengers have to walk by and smell the smoke that escapes with people constantly opening the door to enter/leave. Additionally, smoking outside allows the smoke to dilute into the air in a way that the smoking rooms don’t.
But I still don’t understand why it’s OK to tell people they can’t smoke for the 12 hours they’re on the flight, but not for the 2 hours they are in the airport terminal. If people are addicted to nicotine to the point that withdrawal is that bad, there are smokeless ways of getting nicotine into your system on travel days.
@ Matthew — I completely disagree with you on this one. Indoor smoking and all cigarette advertising should be banned worldwide, and the price of cigarettes should be increased to $25 per pack.
I am 56 years old . Pretty sure I am old enough to think for myself. Always booked through Atlanta so I could grab a quick drag between flights. I honestly don’t understand why this was done since they were included areas so it was not bothering the non smokers. Hell , I would be willing to pay a buck to get in. I am a consenting adults who has made a conscious choice
Just saw this now and agree it’s ridiculous. I am speaking as a smoker though. When it comes to banning vaping together with smoking, I can’t even begin to understand the logic (this is specifically with regard to airports). If the argument being put forth is that smoking areas have to go due to the risk of secondhand smoke, then, alright, I can understand if not agree with that. But then how does on justify an indoor vaping ban when there’s no real secondhand smoking risk? What passengers are at risk here? Is there a serious danger that a teenager will see a vaping area, pick up vaping and then pick up smoking cigarettes? I really don’t think so.
More generally, I’m astonished that airports haven’t been introducing vaping rooms. The question of protecting from secondhand smoke those who decided to switch from smoking to vaping doesn’t even seem to be a real consideration – they’re expected to use smoking rooms as a matter of course.
In some airports (at least in Eastern Europe and Japan), you do find dedicated areas for using heated tobacco products (and I believe vaping is also allowed there), but these are few and tend to be funded by tobacco companies, not the airports themselves. But I can’t think of a single airport that has carved out even ten square metres to be used as a area to be dedicated for vaping.
And of course as a result the vapers just vape in the restrooms, and the airport puts up signs reminding passengers that vaping in the restrooms isn’t allowed (I’m thinking of Heathrow here), instead of just addressing the issue by creating a dedicated area.
I have to say that I will be flying much less. When you have to arrive at the airport 2 hours early, going on a long flight to another non-smoking airport, it puts an unnecessary stress on the smoker. Smokers, like coffee drinkers, alcoholics can become VERY unhinged when being forced to go 6-10 hours without access to their addiction of choice. SO, I will be putting extra miles on my car! I honestly think that smokers should boycott airports that do not give us someplace to light up! It’s akin to removing restrooms… can you imagine not having access to a restroom for 10 hours? Does that sound ridiculous? So does not allowing a designated, well ventilated smoking area!
Not just smoking rooms at airports but other establishments should be able to have separate ventilated smoking rooms if the owner so chooses. Bar owners should also be allowed to make their bar smoke friendly if they like. Modern filter/ventilation technology make smoking bans draconian and obsolete. https://micompco.com/ offers a perfectly reasonable compromise to smoking bans that makes sense and offers freedom of choice for everyone.
It’s both amusing and amazing that we live in a time when kids complain endlessly about smelling cigarettes and love to force bans everywhere they possibly can with a snarky grin. Yet these exact same individuals have no issues with smoking pot and are actually encouraging it to be both smoked and sold everywhere! I also assure you that if the tables were turned these same people praising this would sing a different tune if they said no more beer, wine, or liquor shall be sold at the airport or in airplanes and or no children on planes! Both things I loath, are dangerous, and or are interfering with my flight!
I’m sick of society and what it has become and it’s only going to get worse till everyone looses their freedom and lives under a umbrella of mob rule by selfish hypocrites!
U sure have a great non-smoker narrative. I DESPISE ppl that USED to smoke, same as me, say….what a financial drain on healthcare- that disgusting blah blsh blah…. did u send EXTRA money in, for being part of that financial crippling of the system…. hmmm, drunk drivers??? All the $ spent on Narcan…but u pick smoking to bash???
Yep, I just had my last trip through Atlanta airport because I can go through Dulles. Nice knowing ya ATL.
ECACTLY WHAT LENNON SAID!!!! ITS 100% THE TRUTH!