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Survey of Airport Smoking Policies—United States, 2002

December 24, 2004 / Vol. 53 / No. 50

MMWR Highlights

Airport Smoking Policies Survey

  • In 2002, an estimated 1.9 million workers had jobs at U.S. airports, and more than 1.9 million passengers per day passed through these airports.
  • While over 60% of airports reported they were smoke-free in 2002, larger airports that account for a majority of passenger boardings were less likely than smaller airports to have a smoke-free policy in place.
  • At the time of the survey, fewer than half of larger airports, which service nearly 70% of all airline travelers passing through U.S. airports, were smoke-free.
  • Airport employees and travelers, like employees and patrons at any workplace that permits smoking, are at elevated risk for disease and death caused by secondhand smoke. Airport travelers and employees are also at risk for being exposed to secondhand smoke when entering, leaving, or working outside of airport buildings.
  • Smoke-free airports were more likely than non-smoke-free airports to have designated outdoor smoking areas and to require that people maintain a minimum distance from entrances when smoking outside airport buildings.
  • Increased adoption, communication, and enforcement of smoke-free policies are needed to protect the health of workers and travelers at U.S. airports.


  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), and is responsible each year for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 35,000 coronary heart disease deaths among nonsmokers in the United States.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with an increased risk for lower respiratory infections, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, and chronic ear infections among children.
  • There is no known safe level of secondhand smoke exposure, and evidence suggests that even short-term exposure may increase the risk of experiencing a heart attack.
  • Although population-based data show declining secondhand smoke exposure in the United States over time, secondhand smoke exposure remains a common, preventable public health hazard. Policies requiring smoke-free environments are the most effective method of reducing secondhand smoke exposure.
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