Hartsfield-Jackson to keep smoking lounges despite call to get rid of them

US Surgeon General calls for tobacco-free airport, but Hartsfield-Jackson to keep all 12 of its smoking lounges.

ATLANTA (WXIA) -- US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy was quite direct in his tweet: "World's busiest airport can be its healthiest. Make Atlanta Airport tobacco-free!"

But the bottom line? Don't expect that to happen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport any time soon.

A dozen specially-constructed smoking lounges are on six of the airport's seven concourses and they have been around for a long time. The lounges were funded just before the 1996 Summer Olympics by tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

In a more recent renovation, the lounges each received new ventilation, new windows and new flooring. Airport officials told 11Alive's Bill Liss the lounges would not be going away any time soon despite a fast-moving trend across the United States and strong words from the nation's top doctor geared toward a ban on smoking in indoor airport facilities in the nation.

At this point, 28 of the 35 largest airports in the nation ban indoor smoking -- including all three New York area airports along with airports in Boston, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But with 260,000 passengers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson every day, airport officials say there are no plans to shut the lounges down.

The cost to maintain the facilities are split between the airport and the airlines.

"A lot of people do get offended by smoke, but I think it draws more people to Atlanta, because they want to come to this airport. They know about the smoking lounges, and you don't have to walk the 15 minutes to outside -- find a tiny little designed smoking area and then have your cigarette, then have to go all the way back through the line," said airline passenger Richard Rose, an avid smoker using the lounge.

Others accept the lounges -- as long as they don't interfere with non-smokers.

"I am not a smoker. I don't like the smell of smoke. Keep it away from me and I am fine with that," said Kenny Adams, an airline passenger and non-smoker.

So far, the airport has the same attitude -- keep the smoke in the lounge and away from other passengers, and everyone can remain satisfied.

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