Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 | 4:37 p.m.
McCarran International Airport may be most known for its plethora of slot machines, but it’s also one of five large airports in the United States that allows smoking.
And just in time for one of the busiest travel days of the year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Tuesday criticizing those airports for secondhand smoke.
According to the CDC study, average air-pollution levels from secondhand smoke directly outside designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than levels in smoke-free airports.
“The finding in today’s report further confirms that ventilated smoking rooms and designated smoking areas are not effective,” Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement Tuesday. “Prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas is the only effective way to fully eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Federal laws adopted through 2000 banned smoking aboard U.S. domestic and international commercial flights; however, there is not a federal law requiring smoke-free airports.
Chris Jones, public affairs and marketing manager for McCarran, said indoor smoking only is allowed in a few designated areas, which are fully enclosed and contain separate ventilation systems designed to keep smoke within the confines of the area.
McCarran officials argue the smoking-permitted, enclosed areas benefit nonsmokers by preventing unnecessary congestion at security check points as smokers are not forced to leave the building for a cigarette prior to their departures. The enclosed areas also deter people from smoking in nondesignated areas, such as companion care restrooms, Jones said.
“The results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report were not surprising, given its conclusion that particulates were significantly greater in smoking-permitted areas,” Jones said. “However, the report also states, ‘The difference between the average level in the nonsmoking areas of airports with designated smoking areas and the average level in smoke-free airports was not statistically significant.’”
Five of the 29 largest airports in the United States allow smoking in designated areas: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Denver International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport and McCarran.