Smoke-Friendly Skies

Travelers passing through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport will soon see some changes to the smoking rooms there. Officials say the rooms will be converted to cigar shops that would charge a small fee to tobacco enthusiasts, in exchange for the “privilege” of lighting up on site.

smoking-room

Current smoking room at ATL

The airport is one of the few in the United States that currently has designated indoor smoking facilities. However, many smokers (myself included) have found the cramped space and lack of ventilation of the current rooms provide a less than stellar smoking experience.

Now, airport officials plan to convert the nine smoking rooms spread across different concourses into areas more closely resembling cigar lounges, where patrons could take a load off and enjoy a nice smoke, even a drink and possibly bite to eat.

Pay to Play

The new lounges — targeted for completion by late 2017 — would require a minimum purchase and/or entry fee. Airport officials say the shops will feature “hand-crafted cigars and tobacco products with first-class space for customers to work, be entertained, or sit back and relax in comfort while they enjoy their favorite cigar, cigarettes, or make a purchase of tobacco or tobacco-related accessories.”

NIMBY

The move is not without controversy, however. Anti-smoking groups who have lobbied for years to get the smoking rooms removed entirely have voiced their unhappiness with the move.

“It seems unusual that the Atlanta airport is doing the exact opposite of what most airports are doing, which is going healthier and smoke free,” said Cynthia Hallett, president of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. “You will have other passengers and workers exposed to the second-hand smoke.”

Meanwhile, reps with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite a 2012 study that found a five-fold increase in second-hand smoke levels directly outside airport designated smoking areas.

Airport officials — pointing to the long-standing policy of indoor smoking rooms — say the precedent has already been set, and expressed concern that banning smoking outright could entice vigilante types to light up in restrooms and other areas of the airport.

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