There are still a few airports around the country that accommodate smoking inside the terminals.
According to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, as of July 1, 2021, four of the top 35 US airports have smoking spaces: McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Washington Dulles Airport (IAD), TGIF at Miami International Airport (MIA), and Nashville International Airport (BNA).
Some smaller airports around the country do have smoking spaces as well. But now there is one less airport where travelers can light up: Charleston International Airport (CHS).
The smoking ban at CHS is in effect as of Sept 1, 2021, and includes all enclosed public spaces, outside of the terminal, the shuttles, sidewalks, rest areas, as well as public and employee parking lots.
What can’t you smoke? Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vapes, puff bars, and any device that emits smoke or vapor that may be harmful to travelers.
Why can’t you smoke? Because, according to a Centers for Disease Control study, secondhand smoke travels from designated smoking areas into nonsmoking areas in airports, where nonsmoking travelers and employees can be exposed.
What will happen to you if you light up at Charleston International Airport (CHS)?
The Charleston County Aviation Authority Police Department is enforcing the ban and anyone who does not comply with the ban is subject to a fine.
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.
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:
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 )
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.”