Designated Airport Smoking Lounges Pose Indoor Air Quality Challenges.
While the number of US airports offering designated smoking areas has declined in the past ten years, many still do exist. A study conducted by the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that the average air pollution levels directly outside airport smoking lounges were 23 times higher than in smoke-free airports.
The CDC focused their study on the top five commercial airports that have not imposed a smoking ban. Located in major cities (save one), the five airports highlighted in the report span the map: Denver and Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Virginia’s Dulles International. Together these five served more than 110 million passengers last year, representing close to 15% of all US air travel. (1)
Airport spokesmen at these hubs assert that designated smoking areas are an important service amenity; one that helps smoking customers who have short layovers avoid missing flights (should they feel compelled to smoke outside, far from their connecting terminal). In addition, they say, it affords an alternative to their lighting up in a non-designated spot, potentially affecting non-smoking clientele.
The most recent statistics report that the smoking rate in America is on the decline with only 15% of adults participating in the habit. (2) While that may be true, countless people still smoke. And with over 500 commercial service airports in our country – taking into consideration that the majority are smoke-free – (3) a lot of travelers mean a lot of smokers.
But there are even more non-smokers who travel and as long as any airport that serves the commercial public continues to allow smoking, the vast majority of passengers, flight crews and airport workers – anyone who is in proximity to, cleans or works near a designated smoking area – including lounges, bars and restaurants – should be protected from second-hand smoke, particularly airport employees who are not merely passing through for the day.
The aforementioned CDC report cautioned that separating smokers from the rest of the airport population isn’t enough to prevent exposure and that the only safe level of SHS is none at all. (4) And yet, many airports still allow smoking. For designated smoking rooms in these airports, industrial extraction methods are vitally important. Industrial extraction is the process in which harmful air contaminants are removed from the atmosphere for the protection of passengers and employees. This is critical for a safe and healthy airport environment.
Consider the pollutants emitted from secondhand smoke. There are approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes, creating more than 7,000 chemicals. Nearly 70 of those are proven carcinogens. Toxins such as arsenic, benzene, lead and toluene are present in various other consumer products; all which require warning labels to alert consumers to the possible risks. Oddly enough, the same warning labels are not required for cigarettes. (3)
It used to be assumed that second-hand smoke (SHS) posed only a minor threat – one that disappeared once the smoke evaporated. But consider the fact that every year over 41,000 people in the US dies from SHS exposure, with most vulnerable being children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with respiratory problems. (3)
Until there is full participation amongst commercial airports in terms of banning smoking entirely, indoor air cleaning measures are of the utmost importance; the public health implications demand it.
At Air Systems Inc, we are an authority on indoor air quality and supply our customers with stellar air cleaning products. For the safety of your airport employees and passengers, contact us today for a free indoor air quality assessment from one of our skilled and experienced environmental experts.