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.

Atlanta To Close All Smoking Lounges – Should Others Follow?
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!