One designated indoor smoking area has returned to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv with more to come. The move has infuriated some In Israel, but I think it is great news.
Tel Aviv Airport Brings Back Smoking Rooms
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 and concerning airports, indoor smoking bans ultimately lead to more harmful secondhand smoke exposure.
Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport eliminated smoking rooms, but the move backfired: travelers just lit up in bathroom stalls instead.
The government is not happy. Israel’s smoking rate has recently risen to 20% and the Health Ministry has condemned the move. Meanwhile, the Israel Cancer Association minced no words:
“This destructive decision will take Israel back to the 1950s, when smoking was permitted at the back of buses and there were smoking areas in planes. We are smarter today and aim to raise a generation of children clean of active and passive smoking. Have we not learned anything in the last decades? While other nations are moving forward and passing legislation prohibiting smoking and airports around the world are closing smoking areas and rooms, Israel is taking a step backward.”
And part of me wishes that were true…I pray my kids never smoke even once. But I think this makes a lot of sense, especially with the heavy-handed security at TLV.
Why Indoor Smoking May Be Better Than Outdoor
When people cannot smoke inside, they smoke outside. Then I have to smell it when I walk into a terminal. And I do. It’s unpleasant, though you can hardly blame a smoker when they are all herded outside to do it.
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 former smoking rooms 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.
Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv is bringing back indoor smoking rooms, much to the chagrin of many public health officials in Israel. While I would love to see a day in which people no longer smoked, I’d rather people smoked inside cubicles away from me instead of on the sidewalk as I pass by with my kids.