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.
In ATL, which has held the title of “World’s
Busiest Airport” for many years, there are currently about a dozen
post-security spaces where smokers can light up. The lounges were initially
paid for by Phillip Morris in advance of the 1996 summer Olympics.
U.S. Surgeon General has determined that there is no risk-free level of
exposure to secondhand smoke, ATL officials have long claimed the lounges benefited
non-smokers as well as smokers by keeping secondhand smoke away from
non-smoking guests and by discouraging smokers from lighting up in restrooms
and other spaces.
But since ATL is part of the city of Atlanta, airport
officials say the airport will comply with the new ordinance and convert the
lounge to other purposes. Passengers will be directed to smoking areas outside
of both terminals.
“We plan to work with our airline partners
to make sure they communicate with their customers that smoking is no longer
permitted at ATL,” said Jennifer Ogunsola, spokeswoman for Hartsfield-Jackson
Atlanta International Airport (ATL), “We also will have PSA [public service
announcements] messaging throughout the airport as well as permanent and
digital signage with like messaging.”
ATL’s shift to smoke free
is “huge,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’
Rights (ANR) and the ANR Foundation, “As the airport with the largest passenger
volume and a huge workforce, both flight crews and airport staff, going smoke free
means that millions of people will be fully protected from exposure to
Now, says Hallett, it’s
time for the handful of other U.S. airports that still have smoking lounges to
follow Atlanta’s lead. “Many airports have repurposed smoking lounges for much
desired spaces to sit, including electronic device charging stations or more
food options,” she said.
U.S. airports where
smoking is still allowed
In addition to ATL, a
handful of the country’s busiest airports still offer smoking lounges for
passengers, despite a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing
that designated indoor smoking areas at airports are not effective in
eliminating secondhand smoke exposure.
International Airport (MIA), passengers are permitted to smoke in the open-air patio at TGI Friday’s at Gate D36. “Since it is already in an outside area, there
has not been discussion about closing it,” said MIA spokesman Greg Chin.
McCarran, which has slot machines in many parts of airport,
has enclosed, specially ventilated casino gaming areas on each concourse where
passengers may smoke.
“In the past, when
there were no such areas, we experienced repeated issues in which travelers
would smoke in restrooms, companion care rooms or other public spaces,” said Chris
Jones, spokesman for the Clark County Department of Aviation, “ We’d get
complaints from parents who would enter such a room to change their baby’s
diaper and find it filled with second-hand smoke from someone who’d lit up
there minutes earlier, for example.”
Passengers would also open
alarmed doors in attempts to smoke on emergency exit stairways, Jones said.
Clearing the air in
According to the CDC exposure to secondhand smoke has been
steadily decreasing in the United States, due primarily to the adoption of
smoke-free policies prohibiting indoor smoking at worksites, restaurants and
“However, an estimated 58 million, or 1 in 4, Americans
remain exposed to secondhand smoke in areas not covered by these policies, including
certain airports,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in
CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
“The good news is that we know what works to protect people
from this completely preventable health risk,” King added, “Implementing
smoke-free policies in indoor public areas is the best way to fully protect
everyone, including airport travelers and employees, from the deadly risks of
secondhand smoke exposure.”
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.
During the conference, workshops were offered on everything from saving energy to dealing with security threats and how to get more passengers to “follow” airports on Twitter. But the real fun was on the exhibition hall floor. There, vendors displayed everything from the latest in airport seating (cup holders and USB plugs, thankfully, seem to be the next big thing) to new, high-tech machinery for shooing wildlife off runways. But here are the amenities I found most intriguing.
Last year, Minute Suites debuted “sleep rooms” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Concourse B, next to Gate B15). Each room has a day bed, work desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, a 32” HDTV, and sound masking system tools. The company is opening another branch at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in March 2011, and is in talks with at least three other airports for more.
Minute Suites airport sleep room
Unique Retreat, another company making napping nooks, should be opening its first branch at San Francisco International Airport before the end of the year in the International Terminal, Boarding Area A.
Bahamas-based Graycliff cigars opened boutiques with specially-ventilated cigar lounges attached at Nassau International Airport last November and at Nashville International Airport in March.
Each lounge has an admission fee ($10 in Nassau; $4 in Nashville) and Graycliff reps say they’re exploring setting up this type of smoking lounge at other airports as well.
Eat, buy, play
The Food Network is bidding on several airport locations for themed restaurants that will be called Food Network Kitchens. And ZoomSystems, which makes those oversized airport vending machines (officially: “automated shops”) to sell products from Best Buy, The Body Shop, Sephora and other retailers will soon be installing airport ZoomShops to dispense apparel associated with a major sport.
Skip the cellphone lot; park at the plaza
“Cell phone lots on steroids” is how the folks at Airport Plazas are marketing the service centers they’re planning to build on airport properties but separate from the terminals. Patterned after highway plazas offering fuel and food, these 24-hour service centers might have amenities ranging from a gas station, a food court, a car wash and a convenience store to free Wi-Fi, a pet hotel, a pharmacy and a bank.
The company opened its first airport plaza recently at Newark Liberty International Airport. There, amenities include an environmentally-friendly gas station, a dual-bay car wash, a service station bay and a 7-Eleven convenience store.
Future airport plazas are planned for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers) and Utah’s, St. George Municipal Airport.