smoking

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 )

Smoker in need of a hotel?

Lucky Stirke smoking

A new online booking tool has rolled out to help smokers find hotel rooms where it’s OK to light up.

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Smoketels.com has a database of more than 250,000 smoking-allowed hotel rooms, said founder and smoker Shawn Bradley. “On existing online travel reservation sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, you have to click on the hotel and then look to see if there might be any smoking rooms,” he said. “That gets very confusing and frustrating. Our inventory only includes hotels where smoking rooms are available.”

An increasing number of hotels, such as Marriott and Starwood, have made all their U.S. properties 100 percent smoke-free. “But many Days Inn and Quality Inn properties — and many hotels in the South, where there are still many heavy smokers — will generally have smoking rooms available,” said Bradley.

In a 2012 survey of 52,000 properties conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 63 percent reported being 100 percent smoke-free. “But keep in mind,” said Bradley, “many hotel chains that ban smoking in their U.S. properties have smoking rooms available at their properties in other countries.”

Many of the estimated 43.8 million adult smokers in the U.S. who travel will smoke even if they have to rent a nonsmoking room. “They’ll burn candles, use cologne, blow the smoke out the windows, all in an effort to mask the smoke,” said Bradley.

Smoketels.com may have a hard time going up against existing online travel agencies, said Marcello Gasdia, a consumer analyst with PhoCusWright.

“The only way to generate revenue is to steal market share,” said Gasdia. “That’s a tough thing to do when you’re going against entrenched players like Priceline, Expedia or Kayak. Going for a niche audience is one approach, but it’s still difficult to pull any consumer from these household name brands.”

(My story about a new website that lists hotels where it is OK to smoke first appeared on NBC News Travel.

Smoking lounges at airports not going away

Lucky Stirke smoking

Smoking is still allowed in specific areas at the five major U.S. airports detailed in a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed air pollution levels that are significantly higher than those at non-smoking airports.

One of the airports — Denver International — did snuff three of its four smoking areas in 2012. Smokin’ Bear Lodge Smoking Lounge is the last place where travelers moving through the airport can light up.

“We are happy about that,” said Karen Phelan of the Colordato Department of Public Heath and Environment.“Because even non-smokers who go near the smoking lounges are exposed to secondhand smoke and even a brief exposure to second hand smoke can trigger a heart attack. So this protects everyone.”

The CDC report found air pollution levels from secondhand smoke directly outside designated airport smoking areas were five times higher than levels in smoke-free airports. The CDC examined areas at Denver International, Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta), Washington Dulles, McCarran International (Las Vegas) and Salt Lake City International.

“In general, smoking is limited to a handful of hub airports,” said Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “The list is pretty small. Ten years ago, smoke-free airports were something of an anomaly.”

Besides Denver International, the other airports included in the CDC study have do not have plans to kick the smoking-lounge habit.

“A sizable portion of our airports uses smoke,” said McCarran International Spokperson Christine Crews. “And providing these customers with enclosed areas offers several benefits to non-smokers.” For example, she said, smoking areas inside the airport act as a deterrent to smokers who might light up in non-smoking areas, such as companion care restrooms or near building entrances.

At Dulles, smoking rooms compliant with state and local building codes are offered “as a courtesy because there is no access to the outdoors for passengers in our midfield concourses,” said Kimberly Gibbs, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Nearby Washington National is now smoke-free, Frick notes.

There’s a smoking lounge on each of the five concourses at Salt Lake City International. Additional fans were recently added to one of the lounges and doors were added to the rooms, said airport spokesperson Barbara Gann, but there are no plans to eliminate the rooms.

And at Hartsfield-Jackson, the nation’s busiest airport, improvements to the six smoking lounges were part of a recent concourse cosmetic upgrade project. “We’ve found that if authorized smoking areas are not provided, some passengers – especially those smokers who have just ended long international flights – find unauthorized places to smoke,” said airport spokesperson Myrna White.

Click here to see the smoking policies of the nation’s 35 busiest airports.

“Speaking up for smoke-free airports is important,” Frick said. “The report from the CDC affirms that smoking rooms, smoking sections and ventilation systems do not protect people from the health hazards of secondhand smoke.”

(Photo: George Eastman House, via Flickr, The Commons)

My story about airport smoking lounges first appeared on NBC News.com.