2010/12/06 P-D: “Smoking on way out at Lambert”

I call it a Death Box …. It looks like a sort of Living Coffin.

Colin Nichols, Lambert airport passenger, July 1998

That’s how British passenger, Colin Nichols, graphically described one of the smoking rooms in Lambert Airport when interviewed by KSDK News Channel 5 TV reporter, Linton Johnson, in July 1998, while awaiting his flight.

(Please click here for the 3:47 minute TV video report, which includes the results of a nicotine monitor test of a Lambert airport smoking room, interviews with smoke-sensitive airline passengers attesting to the inadequacy of the smoking rooms, plus an airport official’s on-camera rebuttal.)

Today’s story is the climax of roughly 20 years of efforts by Missouri GASP to make Lambert Airport smoke-free against significant opposition from the tobacco industry and its surrogates, plus the occasional corrupt politician. There are plenty of individuals who have helped us along the way, some unfortunately no longer alive.

While smoking may not be allowed inside the airport, if it is allowed to continue near entrances then significant amounts of secondhand smoke will still migrate inside the building. This will also need the airport’s careful attention but based on our past experience with the airport authorities, may well not happen.

Ald. Lyda Krewson

As it has done on a number of previous occasions, Lambert successfully lobbied to have the airport exempted from the smoke-free air ordinance sponsored by Councilwoman Barbara Fraser and passed by St. Louis County in 2009. However, it failed to get the same exemption in St. Louis City’s ordinance, sponsored by Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, also enacted in 2009 following the success of Prop N.

Smoking on way out at Lambert

Discussion

BY DAVID HUNN | dhunn@post-dispatch.com > 314-436-2239 AND KEN LEISER | kleiser@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8215 | (34) Comments | Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010 7:45 am

The last wisp of smoking inside Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is about to disappear.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is expected to announce today that the city will close — and eventually tear down — the five airport smoking lounges on Jan. 2, the day most public places in the city must go smoke-free.

Slay had said last year he would do as much. Then, late last week, he said in an interview with the Post-Dispatch that the city had worked out conflicts with the county smoking ban, which exempts the lounges.

He said his first priority is the health of travelers and airport workers, but the move is also about the city’s reputation.

“The image we want to project is a city that is progressive and health conscious,” Slay said.

Besides, the mayor said, he never really liked the sight of people crowded into the smoke-filled lounges.

The fine for getting a smoking-indoors citation will be $50 per occurrence, officials said. Airport workers will soon begin posting signs to let the flying public know.

Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea said the airport is still deciding what will fill the space the lounges now occupy.

“It is clear the trend is that airports are going smoke-free,” Lea said.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report contrasting smoking policies at 29 of the largest U.S. airports. It found that 22 were smoke-free this year, compared with 13 of 31 in 2002.

Smoking is still permitted inside three of the five busiest U.S. airports — Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Denver International Airport.

Lambert’s smoking policies were not reviewed. But the report’s conclusions generally supported Slay’s decision, calling for more smoke-free airports.

“Every year, millions of people who travel through and work at these airports are unnecessarily exposed to secondhand smoke,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement. “Even ventilated smoking rooms do not eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. Eliminating smoking at airports is the only way to fully eliminate exposure for people who pass into and through airports.”

Lambert opened the specially ventilated smoking lounges in 1997 at a cost of $450,000. Smoking is off-limits inside bars, restaurants and other public areas.

There were seven smoking lounges initially, but only five are accessible now since Lambert closed numerous unused gates in the B and D concourses.

Smokers are able to sit down or stand inside the lounges, which do not have doors.

Slay said that the airport is working on designating outdoor sites for smokers, once the lounges are gone. They will, however, likely be outside the airport security gates, requiring smokers to leave and re-enter through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints.

Those smoking indoors will be warned at first, Slay said, and then, eventually, ticketed.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a shock,” he said of the change.
‘An inconvenience’

Still, late last week, travelers and airport workers who stopped to smoke inside one of the Terminal 1 smoking lounges said they were sorry to see them go.

“I guess for nonsmokers it’s a good thing,” said Amy York of south St. Louis County, who uses the indoor smoking lounges at Lambert every time she’s there. “But for those of us who smoke, of course, it’s going to be an inconvenience.”

York was seeing off her boyfriend, Elliot Hoyle of Preston, England, who was about to catch flights to Charlotte, N.C., then to Philadelphia and on to Manchester, England. They took turns smoking inside the lounge on the baggage-claim level while the other was outside watching York’s 3-year-old daughter, Lilly.

“I think it’s bizarre you can smoke inside,” Hoyle said between drags. “You can’t in the U.K.”

Business traveler Brian Schroetter of Hazlet, N.J., said, “everybody smokes outside anyway” at U.S. airports, so another smoke-free airport shouldn’t be a big jolt to travelers.

He was familiar with Lambert’s smoking lounges but didn’t use them Friday.

Instead, he walked outside the ticketing level of Terminal 1 to smoke a cigarette.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “I’m a smoker. I would never go in there. You just walk out, you reek of cigarettes.”

2 responses to “2010/12/06 P-D: “Smoking on way out at Lambert”

  1. Hurrah for St. Louis.. It’s about time. Now if they can really enforce it.

  2. Those of you who are smokers, instead of lamenting the smoking restrictions, do yourself a favor and quit that awful addiction. You know you want to. It’ll save you from a painful death of lung cancer or heart disease, plus risking the lives of others in the process with the toxic smoke you contaminate the air we all need to breathe. You can quit without drugs, nicotine patches or hypnosis. Just use your willpower. You still got that, don’t you ?

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