Denver International Airport is one of just three major airports in the United States that has yet to completely ban smoking, landing itself on a worldwide smoky list.
DIA made the list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because it still has one smoking lounge, a club scheduled to close in February when its lease expires.
The study released Wednesday, typically the busiest air travel day of the year in the United States, called out Denver, Las Vegas and Atlanta as the only major airports in the country that still have smoking areas.
About half of the 50 busiest airports in the world have banned smoking entirely, the CDC said. While 23 airports are smoke-free, “the other 27 busiest airports allow smoking in designated or ventilated indoor areas,” the report says.
North American airports are more often smoke-free compared to European and Asian airports, the CDC said. Just four out of 22 major Asian airports are smoke-free, and all four are in China.
Contained smoking rooms are a health risk to travelers and airport employees because even “brief exposure” to secondhand smoke has health consequences, said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. A previous CDC study found that secondhand smoke can transfer from designated smoking areas into other parts of airports.
The Denver airport previously had four smoking lounges but closed three in 2012. The remaining indoor smoking area — The Smokin’ Bear Lodge in Terminal C — is closing Feb. 28, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.
The lounge has an air ventilation system designed to expel smoke outside and cycle in fresh air, Montgomery said. The smoking area is kept at negative pressure, meaning it sucks air from the airport concourse, not the other way around, he said.