Atlanta To Close All Smoking Lounges – Should Others Follow?

Smokers prepare yourselves: Starting January 2nd, 2020, smokers will not be able to light up at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This is because of a new city ordinance that bans smoking in Atlanta bars, restaurants, and other enclosed spaces. This will also apply to the airport’s smoking lounges, forcing smokers to exit the terminal and smoke at the curb. Should other airports follow their lead?

Atlanta Concourse D Aerial
The smoking ban will come into effect on January 3rd. Photo: formulanone via Flickr

The policy at Hartsfield-Jackson

This is what the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport had to say on their website:

“While Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is in full compliance with the City of Atlanta smoking ordinance and the state of Georgia’s Smoke Free Act, we realize that for many passengers, smoking is a part of their daily activity.  That is why the airport will make available free, Good Sense branded, FDA approved nicotine replacement therapy lozenges for a limited time.  The lozenges can be found at participating concessionaires throughout the domestic and international concourses from January 2-31, 2020.”


Those who do wish to smoke must exit the airport entirely, and go outside the terminal. Clearly, this policy was not conceived nor imposed on travelers by the airport itself. Rather, it is part of a City of Atlanta ordinance and an act passed by the state of Georgia.


The reason behind the policy

“Legislation like this saves lives. It creates a safer, healthier city,”  – Matt Westmoreland, Atlanta city council member via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC)

Also according to the AJC, the US Center for Disease Control says that smoke-free policies protect travelers and workers from secondhand smoke. It also says that even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can result in negative health effects.

Several major airports have already established indoor smoke-free policies. Photo: Kashif Mardan via Wikimedia


Should others follow?

Interestingly, Atlanta’s airport is not the first to have complete indoor smoke-free policies. According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2017,  Los Angeles International, Chicago O’Hare, Beijing Capital International, London Heathrow, Shanghai Pudong and Dallas/Fort Worth are among the largest airports in the world with indoor smoke-free policies.

However, U.S. airports like Las Vegas McCarran, Miami International, Washington Dulles and Nashville still have designated smoking areas indoors. Should these airports follow Atlanta in 2020?

My opinion is no. While I’m not a smoker myself, I can respect the fact that it is a deliberate choice for many. This new policy may not be a big deal for travelers heading straight from the city to catch their flight, or those who have arrived at their final destination. My main concern would be for travelers transiting through the airport – particularly those who have lengthy layovers.

Delta Air Lines A350 on taxiway
Atlanta’s airport is Delta’s main hub and sees a large volume of passengers transiting through. Photo: Airbus

As the blog Live and Lets Fly points out, at Delta‘s main hub 70% of passengers in Atlanta are connecting through. This new policy would force connecting passengers to exit the terminal if they need to light up.

At airports in the United States, all international passengers arriving/transiting must clear Customs and Immigration and collect their baggage even if connecting to another international flight. Therefore, the imposition of this policy may not be as dramatic when compared to international airports in other countries.

But when thinking about many other airports around the world, the ability to stay within the terminal its a huge benefit. It may even be a necessity as passengers may not have the proper visas to clear customs – especially just to have a smoke!

Therefore, having at the very least a ventilated smoking room would be hugely beneficial to travelers needing to get in a cigarette or two.


In an ideal world, smokers would not have strong cravings that force them to light up as necessary. However, that is not at all the case and there should be some consideration for this demographic.

Are you a smoker? What do you think of Atlanta’s new policy and how difficult would it be if all airports were like this? Let us know by leaving a comment!


Leave a Reply

6 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
11 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Scott Beamer

Smoking should be banned in public, period.

Smoke yourself to death at home.

Or better yet, quit.

The rest of us should not have to accommodate your addiction in any way.

Andrew MacDonald

Obviously, you’re not a smoker, which is awesome, as I am, and agree that it’s a terrible, gross habit, but you don’t understand the difficulty of quitting, if it was as easy as you imply I’d have quit long ago. Smokers aren’t asking to be able to light up anywhere, just a small, enclosed, ventilated room. We pay a lot of money to fly, and a lot of people are also nervous flyers, so I really don’t see an issue with having a smoking area, provided that second hand smoke doesn’t get into the air outside the area


I join with Scott Beamer. Smokers are oblivious to how obnoxious they are. Even pushing them outside of buildings is not enough – all it means is that non-smokers need to put on a gas mask whenever they walk outside. Who is paying for these “well-ventillated smoking rooms”? Is there a special airport tax on smokers-only? Didn’t think so.


It’s nice that all these restrictions are out in for tabacco but I can’t walk for a minute in Seattle without being exposed to marijuana smoke.

So if you think you shouldn’t be exposed to smoke, why does a separate lounge offend you? It’s a designated location that you are separated from.

I didn’t realize the number of airports with smoking lounges was as high as it is in the US.

Parker West

It’s not possible to separate smokers in an airport smoking lounge from non- smokers in the area. Every time a smoker enters or exits such a lounge the smoke diffuses into the low ceiling hallway. If you fly into LAS, B or C concourses at any rate you’ll see the effect I’m describing.
Good grief, this is 2019, we’ve known for 59 years that smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. Why should society continue to make concessions for those who choose to harm themselves?


It’s only impossible if you go into the smoking lounge. If it bothers you stay away. If it’s a separate environment from where you spend your time why shouldn’t it be between the business and the customer? (In this case Atlanta airport.) Why have the government intrude in people’s lives? I remember being in a bar in Michigan right after they passed the smoking van. My buddy Mike had to smoke outside the fence if the outdoor patio. An elderly gentleman laughed at the absurdity of it. Like the fence was doing anything. There are plenty of things bad for… Read more »

justin H

put the room on the roof unventilated and exposed to the elements. they want to smoke have at it. I don’t smoke never have and understand it is hard to quit.


Yes. Yes. Yes. All kind of Tobacco (Cigarette/ Cigar) production must be banned across the globe. Tobacco farmers must be adviced / financed / steered / supported to produce Vegetable and Fruit. Unfortunately I smoked approximately for 13 years in the past. And Fortunately I gave up smoking 8,5 years ago. It was the greatest thing I have ever done in my life. I have never wanted to smoke again. I didn’t use any medicine / drug to give up smoking. I didn’t go to the doctor for help to give up the smoking. I gave up smoking on my… Read more »


I live in Dublin and it is a totally smoke free airport and also a very fast growing one! I admit it would be tiny compared to Atlanta but it does prove not having these rooms does not hold back growth. As a non smoker happy not see them in my local airport

Fausto Imberti

I will avoid ATL. I am a smoker and it’s a question of freedom. Smoking Lounge for our relax. We are not drug dealer, We are just smoker.


Ya you smokers are selfish adicts. A smoking lounge doesn’t protect non-smokers. Smoking should be banned everywhere. Smokers should pay a moron tax to cover the health costs associated. There is no right on the planet that gives a smoker the right to smoke and expose the public.


So are pot smokers, and many drinkers. Yet in much of the first world, so-called progressives can’t wait to loosen regulations on marijuana and alcohol. And gambling too. And that fine with me. If adults want to use a legal product, let them. You are not the arbiter of right and wrong and just because YOU disapprove of something doesn’t mean it should be banned. Playing fascist is a dangerous game because the next judgmental little fascist may come after something you do. As for the question: NO, other airports should not follow suit. Have open air smoking areas for… Read more »