Several weeks ago, the Surgeon General issued a report that reiterated what most of us already know: There is no safe level of secondhand cigarette smoke. The report stated that exposure to this smoke puts an estimated 126 million people at risk of heart disease, lung cancer and death. It also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory conditions, ear infections and severe asthma.
“The health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are more pervasive than we previously thought,” said Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
Following the Surgeon General report, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) repeated their position that although complete separation and isolation of smoking rooms can control environmental tobacco smoke exposure in nonsmoking spaces in the same building, adverse health effects for the occupants of smoking areas cannot be controlled by ventilation. (See article.)
“ASHRAE’s position is that the only way to effectively eliminate health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity,” Terry Townsend, P.E., ASHRAE president, said.
One final piece of tobacco information to “chew” on: If current trends continue, it is projected the toxic leaf could kill one billion people worldwide this century. That’s billion with a “b”!
With such a significant amount of evidence condemning smoking and second-hand smoke, why is it that lodging establishments still offer smoking rooms and allow workers and guests to be exposed to toxic air? Why is most of the industry taking so long to stop smoking? Where is the leadership on this issue? At the company and association level? Yes, I understand some of the business rationale for accommodating smokers, but I believe it is our moral, ethical, financial and even patriotic responsibility to ban smoking in all hotels, motels, resorts, lodges and inns.
Westin, Heartland, Others Lead the Charge
Green Lodging News was not in operation earlier this year when Westin Hotels & Resorts put an end to smoking in all of its hotels. Belated congratulations to Westin for doing that and for being an industry leader. We reported here last week that Heartland Inns of America just implemented a 100 percent smoke-free policy in its 19 hotels. Hats off to Heartland for its giant step. An increasing number of hotels are eliminating smoking rooms. Many are listed at www.freshstay.com or www.smoke-freehotels.com.
There are almost a dozen states that require smoke-free workplaces for all workers and more are likely to join them. But why wait until you are forced to stop? In the Air Quality section of this site, there are numerous articles that highlight why it makes sense to go 100 percent smoke free. Here are just a few of the reasons: lower capital replacement costs; lower cleaning and maintenance costs (including labor); a healthier and safer work environment for guests and staff; lower health care costs due to less sick time; a higher daily rate (in some cases); and a powerful, positive public relations impact.
As publisher and editor of a publication like Green Lodging News, I may be preaching to the choir with this type of column. Still, I encourage every hotel and management company to follow the lead of Westin, Heartland and the others. The stakes are too high not to.
As always, your opinions are welcome. Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Thank you to all of those who took the time to write last week after the launch of Green Lodging News. Your well wishes were appreciated!