Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Traveling for Thanksgiving? Know this: Three of the busiest U.S. airports are not smokefree

It seems appropriate that right before Thanksgiving, when so many people take to the skies, the federal government should issue an analysis of smoking policies in airports around the country.

I was somewhat surprised that any U.S. airports allow smoking indoors. But they do.

Of the country’s 29 “large hub” airports — defined as airports that accounted for at least 1 percent of passenger boardings last year  – 22 do not allow smoking inside, according to the analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The seven airports that allow indoor smoking are Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Denver International, McCarran International in Las Vegas (no surprise there), Charlotte/Douglas International, Washington Dulles International (I confess I was surprised about that one) and Salt Lake City International. Atlanta, Dallas and Denver are among the countries busiest airports. According to the CDC,

Together, these seven airports that allowed smoking indoors accounted for approximately 151 million (22%) of the 696 million total passenger boardings in the United States in 2009 …

Cigarette manufacturers have promoted separately enclosed and ventilated smoking areas to the management of airports and opposed efforts to make airports completely smoke-free. Enclosed and ventilated smoking rooms are not effective in eliminating [secondhand smoke] exposure, and air travelers or airport workers who pass by these rooms are at risk for exposure to [secondhand smoke]. A 2010 study found that, although ventilated smoking rooms in a medium-hub airport were operating properly, [secondhand smoke] leaked to surroundings areas where smoking was prohibited.

Another interesting note: The report discusses the high level of exposure to secondhand smoke that people have when they are walking in and out of the airport, through the cloud of cigarette smoke coming from smokers who are standing just outside the doors.

The CDC concludes that more efforts should be made to eliminate smoking inside airports. Happy travels.

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