Bill that tightens smoking restrictions at airports passed
April 13, 2012
By Brian Brus, Oklahoma City reporter
The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – The air at Will Rogers World Airport will be a little clearer soon, following the passage of state legislation that gives airport officials more control over nonsmoking areas.
Senate Bill 1686 by state Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this week. It amends state law on allowable smoking spaces to grant commercial airport operators the right to prohibit the use of lighted tobacco in any area open to the public, indoors and out, within a range of 175 feet from an entrance.
That’s a significant change from the former standard of 25 feet for airports, said Oklahoma City Airports Director Mark Kranenburg, who helped draft the legislation.
“Here at Will Rogers, that didn’t work for us because we have numerous doors at the front, both at the upper-level ticket counter area and the lower-level baggage claim,” he said. “And some doors are even closer than 25 feet.
“So we had a lot of people who would smoke in front of the terminal, and we received a lot of complaints over the years from visitors who would leave the building and run into the gauntlet of smoke,” Kranenburg said.
He said it was a problem particularly on the lower level, where an overhang doesn’t allow the smoke to dissipate. When the wind blew from the north, smoke could permeate parts of the building. Kranenburg said the new law was necessary for the safety of the public and the nearly 1,000 airport employees.
Even if smokers are pushed far enough away to avoid air quality issues, the airport still has to deal with cigarette butt litter, he said.
“It’s been an image issue as well, for the city and for the airport,” he said. “We’re trying to create a positive gateway to the city and we do not want visitors running into a bunch of smoke as soon as they leave the building.”
The legislation was passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Capitol. Many airports across the country already have smoking prohibitions that are at least as strict if not more so, Kranenburg said.
The changes will go into effect Nov. 1. However, the airport will continue to provide a closed room for smokers in the concourse past security checkpoints, Kranenburg said. And officials may decide that less than 175 feet is necessary to solve the problem.