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Hartsfield-Jackson to close smoking rooms due to new city ordinance

The outside zones will be the only areas where smoking is allowed

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is closing all of its smoking rooms effective Jan. 2 to comply with a new city ordinance that bans smoking and vaping inside the airport, restaurants, bars, workplaces and many other public locations in Atlanta.

"The priority is to protect the health and safety" of passengers, said Hartsfield-Jackson senior deputy general manager Michael Smith.

The ordinance, passed by the Atlanta City Council with a 13-2 vote and signed into law in July by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, takes effect Jan. 2. The prohibition covers cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes.

In addition to the closure of smoking rooms at the world’s busiest airport, smoking will no longer be permitted at the three airport restaurants that have allowed it: Gordon Biersch, TAP and Terrapin Taphouse.

Signs are going up around the airport to notify passengers of the new ban.

The airport's domestic terminal and international terminal now have designated outdoor smoking zones. But those zones are not within the airport's security-controlled areas, meaning passengers connecting between flights in Atlanta would have to leave the secure concourses to smoke, then go back through security to catch their next flight.

Atlanta Police Department assistant airport commander Reginald Moorman said airport police “will primarily focus on educating” to ensure compliance, and will assist airport businesses with enforcement. Violating the smoke-free ordinance could result in a fine of up to $100 for a first violation, and up to $200 for each additional violation within a year.

Smoking is prohibited indoors at most of the 35 busiest airports in the United States. The only ones that still allow it are Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Nashville International Airport, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

“This is a growing trend,” said Hartsfield-Jackson assistant general manger Paul Brown. Once the ban takes effect, if passengers see people in restrooms or elsewhere in the airport smoking, they should report it, Brown said. “We’re unable to stop everything, obviously.”

Some other airports have come up with outdoor smoking options past security. Miami International, for example, allows smoking in an open-air smoking lounge attached to a TGI Fridays restaurant on an airport concourse. Tampa International Airport has smoking patios past security.

There is no smoking allowed on the Delta Sky Club outdoor SkyDeck on Concourse F, Brown said, and there are no outdoor smoking areas past security at Hartsfield-Jackson. “Internally, it’s been contemplated,” he said.

He acknowledged that the initial phase of the smoking ban at the Atlanta airport “may create discomfort” for smokers who have been using the smoking rooms. Once the ban takes effect, the airport will start a “30-day accommodation program” in partnership with airport advertising contractor Clear Channel, which is getting 60,000 free packs of nicotine lozenges from distributor Perrigo.

A number of airport shops and restaurants will provide the nicotine lozenges for free to passengers who have “limited access to the exterior smoking zones.” To get them, passengers must show a boarding pass and ID indicating they are 18 years or older. Some airport concessionaires may also sell the lozenges or similar products.