At Some Major U.S. Airports, Travelers Still Exposed to Secondhand Smoke

The number of airports that allow smoking is falling, but smokers can still light up inside seven of the largest, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 150 million people — about 22 percent of U.S. fliers — pass through airports that allow smoking every year, exposing them to secondhand smoke.

The list of smoke-filled airports includes three of the five busiest: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Denver International Airport.

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport also allow indoor smoking.

All seven have restrictions on where smokers can light up, forcing them to congregate in smoking lounges, bars or private clubs. However, in 2006 the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that measures to separate smokers from nonsmokers, such as smoking rooms, are never completely effective, HealthDay reports.

“Eliminating smoking at airports is the only way to fully eliminate exposure for people who pass into and through airports,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “This is a no-cost, high-impact strategy that will protect millions of people from secondhand smoke while traveling.”

Airports that permit smoking indoors are also less likely to have a designated outdoor smoking area than airports that ban indoor smoking — 71 percent compared with 82 percent.

The researchers said there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, which can lead to serious health problems and death. According to government estimates, secondhand smoke causes 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. annually.

The study was published in the Nov. 19 issue of the CDC’s journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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