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?
image: ATL Airport