Non-smoking airports—the reason for thousands of grumpy travelers

Ever since cities and countries started banning smoking in workplaces, pubs and restaurants, and, most recently, in most outside public places (like New York and Chicago, for example, have done in city parks), airports have followed—whether on their own or being forced by governments—suit. But what the legislators, campaigners and activists can’t possibly comprehend is that smoking bans at airports is the biggest contributor to grumpy, miserable air travelers.

There are hundreds of airports in the world that have banned smoking completely inside terminals. Moreover, most of those airports don’t even allow smoking outside in most places, having designated smaller areas away from everything that matters for those with the habit. So, the moment you walk through security, you’re pretty much fucked. The only way to enjoy a cigarette in these airports is exiting the secure area and then putting yourself through the misery of going through security again. If you expect shorter check-in, little or no lines, free parking and less hassle – go to

On the other hand, there are a few airports in the world still allowing enjoyment for those of us addicted to nicotine, and which is frequented by airlines like Jettly. Atlanta, for example, has smoking lounges all over the airport—apart from concourse D, for some peculiar reason, but even there is a bar where you can get a refreshing drink and enjoy a refreshing cigarette (or one of those glass pipes Everything For 420). Frankfurt, Germany, is also one of those out-of-this-world airports that has smoking lounges. Tallinn, Estonia, too. Or, in the U.S., apart from Atlanta come to mind Tampa, Florida, and Washington’s Dulles. Even New York’s LaGuardia airport allows smoking after security.

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And then there are the ones that don’t have any smoking facilities inside the terminal buildings. Chicago’s O’Hare, for example, one of the biggest airports in the world. None of the airports in the Greater London area in the UK have any, either. Berlin’s Schönefeld airport is another notorious example, especially because Frankfurt, which is located in the same country, does have smoking lounges.

My latest experience of a non-smoking airport is Anchorage, Alaska. What makes this airport’s approach especially ironic, is that on its website it says, “We want to make your travel experience at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport a pleasant one. For this reason, we have a wide range of services and facilities to best serve you.” And on the same page, the website adds, quite casually, “Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is a non-smoking facility, as such, smoking is not permitted anywhere inside the terminal buildings.”

So how exactly are you making my travel experience a pleasant one when you deny me something I desperately crave for?

Now I understand non-smokers’ despise for us. I understand non-smokers’ desire to have a smoke-free environment. I do my best not to smoke in the vicinity of people who detest the smell or at least use a marijuana vape if I can’t avoid it ( those barely smell at all ). I don’t want to poison other people who don’t want to be poisoned.

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Yes, I understand.

But I also think that if you’re accommodating the needs of some, you’re not really accommodating the needs of all. And, by creating hundreds, if not thousands of people who are miserable, irritable, even angry during their flights (which can by themselves be insanely long these days) you contribute to the unpleasantness of other travelers who have to put up with nervous and angry people on their flights. Why do this? Why make the non-smokers miserable by making the smokers miserable? Where exactly is the logic?

However, here’s the thing. The international conspiracy—for the lack of a better characterization—against smokers is exactly what it is. It’s not about public health, it’s not about making the lives of non-smokers better, it’s not about protecting people from the dangers of second-hand smoking.

It’s about one thing and one thing only—making the lives of smokers miserable. Which is outrageously idiotic, because if we’d all quit, where would you get all the tax dollars that we pay as tobacco excise? Wouldn’t that eventually result in raising other taxes, and potentially the taxes of viceless people?

There is a very simple solution to accommodating both smokers and non-smokers in airports. Interestingly, the first place I encountered this was in Auckland, New Zealand—one of the first countries in the world that introduced an overall ban on smoking in public places, and yet a country that doesn’t think smokers are some sort of lower life forms that don’t have any rights or needs. What the folks at Auckland airport did was—they built a smoking area outside, where they can even buy bulk glass pipes and smoke them after. 

So, you’re inside the terminal building. You’re past security, just a few steps away from your gate. And yet, you can step outside for a cigarette. Amazing, isn’t it?

A similar concept was adapted by Tampa airport in Florida. There’s a door right next to a bar inside the secure area, and you can sit down and enjoy a nice puff before your longer or shorter flight.

Tampa airport's smoking area.

Tampa airport’s smoking area.

You’re not on the tarmac, you’re a fair distance away from aircraft and fuel fumes. You’re on a balcony or a patio that is fenced off, so crazy people wouldn’t run amok on the runway. You’re outside, so there’s no need to build glass boxes and expensive low-pressure air-conditioning systems. You’re outside, just like in your back yard.

If it’s raining, it doesn’t matter. If it’s snowing, it doesn’t matter. If there’s a hurricane outside, you might not be able to light your cigarette, but it doesn’t matter. We, smokers, are sub-human anyway in today’s world. But, at least, with smoking areas like this, we wouldn’t he treated as not human at all.

The only reason such outside smoking areas don’t exist in every non-smoking airport in the world is the constant, outrageous, and dangerously prevalent attitude against smoking and smokers in general. It’s the anti-smoking activists’ and governments’ blatant campaign to wipe out every earthly pleasure people might take up. Soon it’s going to be alcohol (it’s already on the way); chocolate; fat; sex (remember Demolition Man?)…

Yes, smoking is a nasty habit. Yes, it’s harmful for you. But it’s the smokers’ choice to smoke. And it’s still legal. And, an outside smoking area does not, I repeat, does not hurt any non-smokers (the same thing goes for outside open spaces, by the way; take note, New York and Chicago). What it does, though, is considerably reduce the amount of otherwise nice people turned into miserable and angry assholes on aircraft because they couldn’t enjoy their last puff before their 12-hour flight; or get some relief during a four-hour layover in Seattle after a three-hour flight and before a six-hour one.

Airports—build outside smoking areas in the terminals near the gates. You will have a lot more happy travelers and none of the non-smokers will be unhappy. Unless they’re natural pricks, but then they just are that way and should walk to places instead of flying in the first place.

(Ah, yes. I did claim in a blog post last year I had quit smoking. Well, that lasted for three and a half months. Hey, I’m an addict. So sue me. I still have rights.)

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