Home Air Quality Nonsmoking Violation Fines Vary Throughout Industry

Nonsmoking Violation Fines Vary Throughout Industry

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HOUSTON—An increasing number of hoteliers are choosing to set their properties apart by becoming nonsmoking facilities. There are many advantages to making the change:

• Providing a healthier atmosphere for guests and staff;

• Protecting bathroom counters from burns, carpet from holes, etc.;

• Extending the life of soft goods, carpet and interior paint of the property;

• Shortening the time it takes housekeepers to clean a room; and

• Creating a special marketing niche for your property.

The Groveland Hotel near Yosemite National Park has been smoke free for the last 12 years since Peggy Mosley became general manager there. Peggy’s experiences provide boundless nonsmoking information on the subject of smoke-free hotels.

“Our very first step was to talk with our credit card processor to be sure the fines that would be imposed for violating the agreement would stick,” Mosley says. “We did absolutely everything they told us to do to the letter. As a result, the credit card processor has been very helpful, and we have not lost one single dispute over fines that have been assessed.”

The Groveland Hotel’s reservation staff makes it clear to those calling in to make reservations that the hotel is smoke free. The letter of confirmation reaffirms that smoking is not allowed in the hotel. When guests arrive at check-in, the agreement that they must initial is printed in large type and placed under glass at the front desk for easy readability. Guests must initial the paragraph of their registration form stating that they understand that a $200 fine will be charged to their credit card if it’s found that smoking has occurred in their guestroom.

Signs at every entrance notify those entering that smoking is not allowed. Once entering the guestroom, guests find a note on the table stating, “If you’re looking for an ash tray, you’ll find one on the back porch,” (where guests are allowed to smoke).

The fine process at The Groveland begins when a housekeeper discovers that smoking has occurred in a guestroom. The housekeeper then calls in both the maintenance man and a front desk person to confirm the smell of smoke in the room. Assuming all three agree that smoke and/or the remains of smoking is evident, paperwork documentation is processed. Any evidence of smoking found in the room such as cigarette or cigar butts or ashes is gathered and placed in a plastic baggie with the date, time and room number.

If the violating guest were to stay longer at the hotel, he/she is asked to leave. If requested, the front desk staff will attempt to find other accommodations for the departing guest. Only once has a smoking violator had to be escorted off the property.

Mosley says the most interesting dispute over the smoker’s fine was after a 20-something son of a doctor and his pals stayed at the hotel during an area rafting event. The young men were not only smoking; they were smoking pot. Another guest had reported the unmistakable odor of pot outdoors, apparently because the young men had opened the window to clear the air in their room. The doctor disputed the fine, and absolutely refused to believe that his son and friends were smoking. However, not another word was heard from the doctor after he was sent a copy of some bizarre gibberish in his son’s own handwriting that had been written in the hotel’s guestroom journal.

Some smoke-free hotels, number of rooms and fine for smoking in a guestroom are:

• Quality Inn at Founders Tower, Oklahoma City, Okla., 51 rooms, $50;

• Upham Hotel, Santa Barbara, Calif., 50 rooms, no fine;

• Howard Johnson, Williamsburg, Va., 100 rooms, no fine;

• Country Inn & Suites, Newark, Dela., 55 rooms, $100;

• Sea & Spa Inn, Mendocino, Calif., 41 rooms, $400;

• The Groveland Hotel, Yosemite, Calif., 17 rooms, $200;

• Four Points by Sheraton, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 177 rooms, $300; and

• Sheraton Rittenhouse Square Hotel, Philadelphia, 177 rooms, $300.

One hotel’s verbage of the nonsmoking agreement states, “The hotel is pleased to provide a smoke-free environment in all guestrooms and public areas. Smoking in a guestroom will result in a charge of $XXX being applied to your account. This fee will be used to restore the original air quality level.”

This article was republished with the permission of Patty Griffin, president and founder of the Green Hotels Assn. She can be reached at info@greenhotels.com.

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