Airports that allow smoking indoors expose travelers to harmful secondhand smoke, CDC study says

Seven of the country’s largest airports could take a cue from Thursday’s nationwide smoke-out and just quit –- instead of letting cigarette smokers light up inside their facilities and exposing travelers to secondhand smoke.

That’s the tack taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new study about airports and smoking policies released Friday. The study warns of the health dangers of secondhand smoke, which has been found to increase the risk of heart attacks, lung cancer, asthma attacks and other diseases.

Airports on the indoor-smoking list include three of the busiest -- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Denver International Airport (DEN) –- as well as Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

Still, the study notes how much progress has been made in the number of airports that have gone smoke-free:

"Of the 29 airports analyzed, 22 (76%) are currently smoke-free indoors, compared to 13 of 31 (42% ) in 2002. Smoking was banned on domestic airline flights in 1990, but there is no national policy that addresses smoking inside the nation's airports."

In the report, the agency also frowned on airports that offer a smoke-free alternative: ventilated or enclosed ventilated rooms.

"Completely eliminating smoking in all public places and workplaces, including airports, is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure," said Ursula Bauer, director of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Secondhand smoke is responsible for 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year."

Here’s a summary and the entire report published Friday in the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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