Atlanta International Airport stubbing out its smoking lounges

Dec 14, 2019

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When the New Year arrives, it will bring cleaner air to the world’s busiest airport.

And that will put some travelers on edge.

At midnight Jan. 1, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) will officially close all its smoking areas to comply with an enhanced city-wide ordinance banning smoking and vaping inside bars, restaurants and enclosed spaces.

For years, there have been about a dozen places throughout ATL’s sprawling terminals where travelers can  light up. The list includes smoking lounges funded by the Philip Morris cigarette company in advance of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

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Over the years, concerns about exposing travelers and airport employees to second-hand smoke have led most others airport in the United States to shutter their smoking lounges.

And in 2015, then U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, used Facebook and Twitter to urge ATL to close its smoking lounges, stating “Mad Men ended, and this should too. World’s busiest airport can be its healthiest.”

But until Atlanta’s ordinance forced ATL to close its smoking areas, airport officials insisted the lounges were an important passenger convenience that also discouraged and prevented smokers from lighting up in inappropriate and unsafe places, such as restrooms.

Now, the airport will close and find another purpose for the spaces once set aside for smokers.

To help with the transition, ATL has posted signs and is running announcements on the overhead PA system in the airport, on the Plane Train between terminals and the SkyTrain that runs between the terminals and the rental car center, hotels and convention center.

And, acknowledging that “smoking is a part of daily life for some,” from January 2 to January 31, about two dozen concessionaires at ATL will be giving away free FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy lozenges.

Travelers who still want to smoke or vape at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will find designated smoking areas outside of the domestic and international terminals at least 25 feet from the terminal entrances. Anyone defying the new ban will be subject to a $200 fine.

Other options for smokers in airports

While there are many international airports with smoking lounges, the number of airports in the United States with smoking lounges is dwindling.

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) closed its smoking lounges in 2016 and Denver International Airport (DEN) closed its remaining smoking lounge in 2018.

But smokers can still light up in designated spaces inside McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nashville International Airport and Washington’s Dulles International Airport.

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