What does a smoke-free airport really mean?
Most airports have converted to a smoke-free environment, to provide for healthier conditions for their patrons. Others, have incorporated a designated ‘smoking area’ outside of the building to appease this cross-section of patrons. It is a delicate balance striving to satisfy both smokers and non-smokers, without losing customer support and market share. With this being said, all airports are in agreement, in that they collectively have banned lighting up during flight.
Many bricks-n-mortar businesses have converted to non-smoking areas and additionally many do not allow smoking within a specified amount of space directly outside of the location. This limit the smokers to where and when they can indulge and somewhat alienates so many. It is not surprising that entrepreneurs have created an alternative product to meet a specific demand.
With the creation of the electronic cigarette, a new discussion is being researched and reviewed. Should an electronic cigarette be treated the same as a traditional tobacco product? Are others exposed to health risks such as second hand smoke? Is this product supportive of customers who are smokers without causing harm to others? Should electronic cigarettes at airports be banned? These are all very good questions.
For those that may be less familiar with this controversial product, a definition may be helpful. An electronic cigarette, (or e-cigarette), is a battery powered device that transforms the liquid into a vapor to be inhaled by the consumer. The liquid contains nicotine and a pres-elected flavor (e.g. chocolate, mint, snicker-doodle, etc.).
Some release nicotine, while others merely release flavored vapor and it’s believed to be less addictive. They are often offered online in flavors such as cherry and bubblegum, which are enticing and obtainable for children under the age of 18. The electronic cigarettes at airports are often easily accessible to travelers. The benefit for tobacco smokers changing to this product, seems to be less health risks directly related to long-term exposure to the harmful chemicals and additives contained in traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Manufacturers report that the electronic cigarette contains very little more than water vapor and flavoring, but testing shows detectable levels of minestrone; which is a compound known to cause cancer.
Electronic cigarettes are manufactured in China therefore, subject to very little quality control and are noted to have varying levels of nicotine between products that claim to have equal amounts. It is also noted as being a useful aide in replacing a very unhealthy practice with one that is potentially less harmful. It also contributes to providing for a healthier environment for friends and family that would otherwise be exposed to second hand smoke.
This topic will likely be an ongoing discussion for airport management, legislators, and consumers to consider. There seems to be mixed reviews by the general public. Those who utilize this product would like looser regulations as to use in and around airports. Those who do not smoke, seem to feel strongly that electronic cigarettes should not be allowed at the airport and should be treated equally to relevant tobacco products.
These are all very relevant concerns and considerations; However, the current research is somewhat inconclusive and this topic remains controversial. Moving toward a smoke-free world, certainly calls for consumer input in order to make informed business decisions for strategic organizational planning and market development for airports worldwide.