Smoking still allowed at most of world’s busiest airports

According to a newly released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at many of the world’s busiest airports travelers continue to be explosed to second-hand cigarette smoke, which the Surgeon General has declared a health risk at any level of exposure.

The report, published this week, found that as of August 2017 more than half (27) of the world’s 50 busiest airport still allow smoking in certain areas, while 23 (46 percent) were smoke-free.

Among the 10 busiest airports in the world, the report found that half still allow smoking in certain indoor areas: Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International, Dubai International, Hong Kong International, Paris’s Charles de Gaulle, and Tokyo International.

Beijing Capital International, Chicago O’Hare, London Heathrow, Los Angeles International and Shanghai Pudong International, also among the top 10 busiest airports, are smoke-free.

Among North American airports on the list of the 50 busiest, the CDC report found that 14 of 18 had a smoke-free policy, but that Atlanta, Denver, McCarran International in Las Vegas and Mexico City International airports still permit smoking in some areas. (Washington-Dulles, a busy hub, but not among the 50 world’s busiest airports, also has smoking areas.)

Denver International, the report notes, closed three of its four smoking indoor smoking rooms in the past few years and is scheduled to snuff out the final one in 2018 when its lease expires. And while it is not among the 50 world’s busiest airports, the report mentions that Salt Lake City International, a large-hub U.S. airport, also recently implemented a smoke-free policy.

But while Beijing Capital International Airport, the world’s second busiest airport, is smoke-free, “Sadly, Las Vegas, Dulles and Atlanta have not budged on going smoke-free,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Officials at Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport, say they are well aware of the calls to create a smoke-free environment at the airport, but have no plans to close their smoking areas.

“Creating a smoke-free policy would force smokers to find locations throughout the airport to light up and expose other guests to secondhand smoke,” said ATL spokesperson Andrew Gobeil, “And smokers might move outside the terminal and create an additional burden on security lines as those passengers re-enter screening areas.”

Inconvenience aside, “Millions of people who travel through and work in airports that allow smoking are unnecessarily exposed to secondhand smoke,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, “Smoke-free airports can protect people from this preventable health risk.”

My story about smoking at airports first appeared in a slightly different form on USATODAY’s Today in the Sky.


No more smoking – soon – at Salt Lake City Int’l Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport Smoking lounge

According to recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the smoking rate in the U.S. is on the decline: in 2015, 15 percent of U.S. adults smoked, down two percent from 2014 – the biggest decline in more than 20 years.

That may be one of the reasons Salt Lake City International Airport, which for years promoted its five post-security smoking rooms as a convenience for smokers making connections, has announced a schedule for snuffing out those lounges.

The first lounge will close July 5, at the end of the Independence Day weekend, and the last lounge will close the week of December 19, just as the Christmas holiday travel rush begins.

“This is first and foremost an issue of public health, both for travelers and our airport employees,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a May statement announcing the closure.

But she also noted that the “beyond capacity” airport was in dire need of the extra space.

“[E]very foot of available space should be used to the best advantage of the traveling public,” said Biskupski, citing retail space, charging stations and extra seating as possible uses for the 1,200 square feet that will be freed up by the closure of the SLC smoking lounges.

Going forward, the Salt Lake City mayor noted that smoking rooms are not included in the current designs for the airport’s $1.8 billion terminal remodel program, which has a scheduled phase one completion date of 2020.

Response to the lounge closure at SLC airport announcement has been mixed, said SLC spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.

“I fly frequently through SLC on business and use the rooms every time,” one passenger wrote in an email shared by airport authorities, “I figured this day would come…What a let-down.”

Public health advocates and other organizations are applauding the airport’s decision.

“This move will protect workers and passengers alike from exposure to secondhand smoke.” said Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and puts SLC in good company: more than 600 U.S. airports are now 100 percent smoke free.

Eliminating airport smoking lounges could also help improve the state’s financial bottom line, said Brook Carlisle, Utah Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network,

“It’s estimated that the annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in our state will reach $542 million this year,” said Carlisle, “not to mention the $355 million in costs from smoking-related lost work productivity.”

Noting that “We’ve had #SmokefreeSkies since 1990,” even U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy sent SLC a congratulatory Tweet:

In May, 2015 Murthy has post a thumbs-down photo standing outside a smoking room at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

While SLC is closing its lounges, there are other major U.S. airports, including Washington Dulles, Hartfield Jackson Atlanta International, Denver International Airport, Nashville International, Miami International Airport and McCarran Airport in Las Vegas that still have smoking lounges and/or other areas where smoking is allowed indoors.

(A slightly different version of my story on smoking lounges at airports first appeared on NBC News )

Salt Lake City Airport to close smoking lounges

Lucky Stirke smoking

After years of insisting that the smoking lounges inside its terminals were an important service amenity for travelers, Salt Lake City International Airport has reversed position and announced that it will phase out the available use of the five lounges currently at the airport in a six-month plan beginning on July 5.

First to go will be the smoking room in Concourse D, with the final smoking lounge scheduled to close on December 19.

SLC has a $1.8 billion Terminal Redevelopment Program underway and it was also announced that there are no smoking lounges in the new plans.

“This is first and foremost an issue of public health, both for travelers and our airport employees, but it is also an issue of space concerns,” said Mayor Biskupski, on the closure plan. “The current airport terminal is also beyond capacity, and every foot of available space should be used to the best advantage of the traveling public.”

Closing the smoking rooms might not only help Utah reduce health care costs and lost productivity related to smoking, it will also free up more than 1,200 square feet in the concourses for other purposes, such as retail space, charging stations for electronics and extra passenger seating, the mayor’s announcement noted.

Here’s the schedule for closing the lounges:

*Concourse D (470 square feet): July 5
*Concourse A (308 square feet): Week of August 15
*Concourse B (396 square feet): Week of September 26
*Concourse E (357 square feet): Week of November 7
*Concourse C (598 square feet): Week of December 19

McCarran International in Las Vegas, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Denver International and just a few others are now the only major U.S airports with smoking lounges in the terminals.

Travel Tidbits: e-cigs, Cuba & mascots

Lucky Stirke smoking

The U.S. Department of Transportation has finalized a rule related to smoking on airplanes and now the use of electronic cigarettes on commercial flights is officially forbidden.

According to DOT: “The final rule applies to all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers involving transportation in, to, and from the U.S.”


Many U.S. airlines – including Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United – filed applications this week for regularly scheduled flights to Havana and other airports in Cuba. 110 daily flights will be approved, so stay tuned and start planning your trip now.

Frontier mascot

And, Frontier Airlines is running a contest to pick a school mascot to be featured on one of its new Airbus 320 airplanes.

The winning mascot’s organization will win 20 roundtrip tickets and every time you vote you get entered in a contest to win a free flight.