Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes Smoking!

When it comes to airplane travel, many nonsmokers complain about the overzealous airport security, the impatient travelers in line, or the lack of service on the flights. However, for those who travel with a pack of cigarettes and a lighter inside their carry-on-bags, being on board a 12 hour non-stop flight from Japan to Germany could be dreadful. As more public places such as airports, hotels, restaurants, and bars ban smoking and the number of smokers worldwide continue to rise; it is becoming a much larger design issue for both smokers and nonsmokers. Statistics show that there are not enough suitable smoking lounges in the airports in the United States forcing them to smoke outside. Smokers are troubled further by the overwhelming and outdated “No Smoking” signs on board airplanes. However, this may all change if Smokers International Airways (SMINT Air) starts offering their airline services.

Many smokers are forced to quit cold turkey at airports and airplanes because there are not enough adequate smoking areas to accommodate the growing amount of smokers throughout the world. However, the airports that provide separate smoking lounges have design flaws too because many users have complained about the lack of space and poor air quality. Teddy Vuong, a former nicotine addict had smoked cigarettes for 10 years and expressed the difficulties he had to face inside airports and airplanes. Mr. Vuong said, “The idea of not being allowed to smoke is scary and makes me nervous. Its worse when you have a layover and you don’t know when the plane is expected to arrive but at the same time you know you can’t smoke inside the airport while you’re waiting because there aren’t any lounges.” When there weren’t any smoking lounges in the airport Mr. Vuong admitted that he sneaked outside whenever he found an unlocked door after going through the security checkpoint. Mr. Vuong said “There was one incident when I went through security and as I waited for my flight to arrive I craved a cigarette so I went back outside through security and afterwards had to wait in line to bypass security again.” He also commented about the discomfort and lack of smoking lounges available especially in the United States where smoking is banned in most airports. Whenever he did occasionally come across smoking lounges he refused to stay inside for long because of the lack of proper ventilation and the fact that they would be often overcrowded and unclean. When I asked Mr. Vuong what he would do during flights to fight his addiction towards nicotine he answered by stating that he would keep himself distracted by reading or sleeping throughout the journey since smoking on flights is illegal.

Giulio Yaquinto, a smoker and frequent flyer said, “That it is psychologically difficult because you know that more airports are banning smoking inside and it is a challenge knowing that you can’t smoke especially when under stress. I try to light a smoke outside before my flights but sometimes I can’t because I’m running late. There just ain’t enough smoking lounges in America.” E.S. Pevzner from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report conducted a survey, “Airport Smoking policies in the United States in 2002” and concluded that smoke-free airports are on the rise in the U.S. pressuring addicts to smoke outside. The survey specifically targeted 31 large-hubs, 34 medium-hubs, 69 small-hubs, and 63 non-hub airports. The results were that 122 of 197 (61.9%) of the airports they researched enforced smoke-free policies. Pevzner said, “Among smoke-free airports, the percentage having a written smoking policy varied by hub size, with 76.9% of large-hub, 66.7% of medium-hub, 65% of small-hub, and 82.4% of non-hub airports that also have a written policy.” The ANRF (American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation) reported in “100% Smoke free U.S. Airports” that as of October 2, 2008, 133 airports are smoke-free in the United States, and the list is growing each year. Harriet Baskas from USA Today reported that only 25 out of 90 airports provide smoking lounges in the United States. As the number of smoke-free airports increase and the number of airports that provide smoking lounges stays stagnant more smokers are forced to find alternative areas to light their cigarettes. As the issue of accommodating the smokers continues to be ignored by just “kicking” them outside, many smokers light their cigarettes in front of their gates and then become a problem for nonsmokers as well. Many nonsmokers who wait for a cab or enter and exit the gates have suffered from second-hand smoking due to the smokers standing near the doors. The only solution that the airports have done was providing them ashtrays next to the trashcans outside.

The American Heart Association estimated 25.9 million men (23.9%) and 20.7 million women (18.1%) or approximately 1 in 4 people are smokers in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that by 2025 the percent of women who smoke will increase by 20% worldwide. They said, “The percentage of female smokers in industrialized nations is 15% and only 8% in developing countries. WHO reported that they expect the number of women smokers to double in developing countries such as India and China because women are becoming more independent and career driven. WHO also expects that as more women are becoming exposed to the workforce, the higher the chances that women will pick up smoking due to peer pressure and the rise of work related stress. The study also stated that the population of women in developing countries is estimated to climb from 2.5 billon to 3.5 billion in 20 years. Statistics show that there have been a steady number of smokers and this number will only increase further. This is evidence that the number of smokers around the world is not expected to decline. Therefore, as more airports become smoke-free and without smoking lounges the more of a potential problem and inconvenience it will be for both smokers and nonsmokers.

Warning signs such as “No Smoking” and “Seat Belt” signs are designed to catch people’s attention but often fail to do so. The Daily Yomiuri(Tokyo) said in their article, "Air rage cases hit 3-year high in '06; govt eyes stiffer penalties,” “The number of cases in which airplane passengers were ordered to halt disruptive behavior such as using cellular phones and smoking during flights increased in the past three years. There were 10 cases, when the flight captains reported the passengers to police or ordered them off the plane. These numbers were the highest since the revised Civil Aeronautics Law that took effect in January 2004.” Japan’s Aviation rules state that if anyone is to break the rules during a flight the stewardess is to issue a warning. If the passenger ignores the warning, then they will be given a written warning by the captain, and if they persist with their behavior, the captain will order them off the plane and can be fined up to $5,000. Also the Daily Yomiuri said, “According to the ministry, the number of dangerous acts on airplanes over the past year was 462, and 203 of them involved smoking in the lavatory.” Smoking during flights is a continual problem that is slowly increasing each year and many of the warning labels and signs are proving to be ineffective and meaningless. Many nations such as the Japan, Korea, U.S., and other countries have taken the initiative to revise laws for disruptive acts on flights by raising fines and increasing the amount of “No smoking” signs but, passengers continue to ignore the signs and break the rules anyway.

Many airplanes have an excessive amount of signs in the cabins and the lavatories that prohibits smoking. Most of these little signs are icons of a cigarette that has a bold red cross over it accompanied by a redundant message that literally spells out “No Smoking.” These signs visually clutter our view annoy passengers onboard by reminding them something many of them already know. After a brief interview with Yong H. Yu, a smoker and frequent business traveler said, “The signs are like a slap in the face to smokers. I read them saying “Just in case you smokers forgot, you can’t light that here” instead of it actually saying “no smoking” on the airplane. It’s 2008 for Christ sake. I think we got the message.” Even though these signs are redundant, the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) regulations state that no one may operate an airplane unless either the “No Smoking” signs are lit during the entire flight or one or more “No Smoking” placards are posted inside the aircraft. But, many travelers find that there are more “No smoking” placards on the cabin of the aircraft then necessary. There are signs inside the bathrooms from the moment you reach for the door to when you’re washing your hands. Many flyers might find the superfluous messages irritating and undermining since many flyers are well aware of the smoking ban that existed since 1990 on domestic flights. David Pogue, who works for the New York Times pointed out his opinion on the annoyance and ineffectiveness of warning stickers placed along the cabin of the aircraft. Pogue states, “If you’re someone who likes to smoke, do the airlines think that 7 warnings will do the trick where 1 or 2 won’t?

Instead of placing the “no smoking” signs above every seat and bathroom fixture could the airliners replace them for other more meaningful messages? Andy McCue, CNET News, reported that starting early next year Air France will be the first airline to replace the obsolete “no smoking” signs with a “no cellular phone” sign. They intend to do this by introducing in-flight mobile phone services to passengers. This will provide passengers to make in-flight mobile calls since flyers are prohibited to use cellular phones during a flight. McCue states “The illuminated “no smoking” signs have now become outdated since almost universal bans on lighting up on scheduled passenger planes were introduced in the late 1990s.” The “no mobile” sign that will show a phone crossed out will be illuminated until takeoff. Once the plane is in the air and it is safe enough, an announcement will be made to passengers that will allow the use of the onboard mobile phones. Air France believes that this will be a much more efficient use of the overhead illuminated “No Smoking” sign because it will inform passengers not to use their cellular phones while informing them about the available onboard phones as well. This was a cost efficient solution for Air France because they didn’t have to remove the entire overhead unit to get rid of the old sign but replaced just the icon with a different image. Officials from Air France anticipate that once this change takes effect many flyers will become more aware of the safety signs and reduce the amount of cellular phone use and resolve some of the design related issues mentioned earlier such as, riding the overwhelming amount of outdated “No Smoking” signs.

“No Smoking” signs may become completely obsolete in the future if Smoker’s International Airways (SMINT Air) plans on designing an airplane that will accommodate smoking during flights becomes approved. SMINT Air is a luxury airline that has plans to offer addicts a break on flights by allowing travelers to smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes onboard. The airline is owned by a German broker named Alexander Schoppmann who is confident that it will be available to the public in around a year. Schoppmann plans to restore the “glory days” of airplane services by promising passenger’s gourmet meals, “giant ashtrays” on every seat, and plenty of room. Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, stated “The only thing banned will be cramped, cheap, economy-class seats.” Roger Collis, The International Herald Tribune stated, “It is Schoppmann’s goal to convert two Boeing 747s acquired from South African Airways, that will be refurbished and highly modified to offer 30 first-class and 108 business-class seats (with seat pitches of 80 inches- about 203 centimeters- and 70 inches, respectively) and three lounges, including a cocktail bar serving oysters and champagne.” The luxury airline will only serve passengers from Tokyo, Japan to Dusseldorf, Germany. Collis also stated SMINT air expects to profit from the steady flow of traffic between the two countries especially because 25% of Germans and 49% of Japanese men are smokers. According to the Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, one round-trip is expected to be priced at $6,000 for business-class and around $14,000 for first-class seats.

To preserve the quality of the air the aircrafts will have an advanced air-conditioning ventilation system, which, Schoppmann stated “Will provide fresh air that is far better than that of a nonsmoking cabin.” SMINT Air reported in “The Airplane Cabin Environment,” that a higher air exchange rate will be the key to preserving air quality, maintaining temperature, and dissipating smoke and odors in the cabin. They calculate that there will be a complete cabin air exchange every two to three minutes unlike the conventional aircraft recirculating air every 20 minutes and uses little outside air. They plan to achieve a high air exchange rate by having their 747s equipped with “high-tech” ventilation systems that provide 50% outside air and 50% recirculated air. First the fresh air will enter the engine and once it enters the mixing chamber it is mixed with air that has been cleaned through an advanced filter. SMINT Air claims that their planes will have air filters that are similar to those used in critical wards in hospitals which provide maximum efficiency. After the mixing chamber the clean air is then supplied to the cabin from the overhead outlets where passengers can smoke without being overwhelmed.

Schoppmann had promised to launch during the summer of 2007 but was delayed due to as Schoppmann stated “a tight market for serviceable aircraft.” But, Hana-Henning Muehlke, a spokesman for the German Federal Aviation Commission, said “SMINT Air is still on the early stages for applying for an operator’s license and predicted it could take an additional year for approval.” Even though Schoppmann is confident that his airline will be available soon, it is uncertain that Schoppmann’s “uber” plane will ever take flight because there have been airlines who attempted to allow smoking onboard in the past such as, The Great American Smoker’s Club and Smoker’s Express but failed due to lack of financing. But, unlike the two previously failed airlines Schoppmann claims to have access to loans due to his connections with banks. If Schoppmann ever gets approved and his business turns out to be successful he will buy more planes and add more routes around the globe in the future.

From the moment that smokers step foot into an airport to the moment they board the plane they face numerous challenges. Their long journeys are full of obstacles and barriers such as the minimal availability of smoking lounges to the annoyance of “No smoking” signs inside the aircraft. As the number of smokers steadily increases worldwide, especially in developing nations, the greater the problem it will be for both smokers and nonsmokers. As these issues becomes broader, more design related solutions like the ones that SMINT Air have developed becomes more prominent especially as the service of flights are becoming progressively worse.

Works Sited

"Air rage cases hit 3-year high in '06; govt eyes stiffer penalties." The Daily Yomiuri 8 Feb. 2007. 8 Feb. 2007. LexisNexis. Department of Fine Arts Library, Austin. 6 Nov. 2008. Keyword: Airplane Cases.

Baskas, Harriet. "Finding a smoking (or smoke-free) area at the airport." USA Today 08 June 2004.

Collis, Roger. "SMINT Air." The International Herald Tribune 25 Apr. 2007.

Hallett, Cynthia. "Smokefree Skies Anniversary." Americans For Non Smokers' Rights. 2008. ANR Foundation. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Hunt, Elwood H., and David R. Space. "The Airplane Cabin Environment." 9 Nov. 2008 .

McCue, Andy. "Airlines to replace 'no smoking' with 'no mobile'" CNET News 7 Aug. 2006.

Minitier, Richard. "Airline hopes to fly smoker-friendly skies - Smokers Express Airlines." BNET. 16 Aug. 1993. CBS Interactive. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Olson, Elizabeth. "WHO Study Predicts World Wide Smoking Rise." No Smoking ORG. 06 June 2001. Action on Smoking and Health. 9 Nov. 2008 .

"100% SMOKEFREE U.S. AIRPORTS." AMNRF. 02 Oct. 2008. American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Pevsner, E.S., R.M. David, W.K.Y. Pan, and C.G. Hutsen. "Survey of airport smoking policies—United States, 2002." BNET. 24 Dec. 2004. CBS Interactive. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Pogue, David. "In-Flight Annoyances." New York Times 30 Apr. 2007.
"Sec. 121.317 - Passenger information requirements, smoking prohibitions, and additional seat belt requirements." Federal Aviation Regulation. Rishing Aviation. 9 Nov. 2008 .

"Smokers International Airway." Flight International (2006). 21 Nov. 2006. Academic Search Complete. LexisNexis. Department of Fine Arts Library, Austin. 9 Nov. 2008. Keyword: Smoking in an airport.

"Statistics about Smoking." WD. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Vuong, Teddy. Personal interview. Nov. 7, 2008.

Whitlock, Craig. "German Entrepreneur's Glamour Airline: Nicotine Niche or Pipe Dream?" Washington Post 25 July 2007.

Yaquinto, Giulio. Personal interview. Nov. 8, 2008.

Yu, Yong H. Personal interview. Nov. 8, 2008.

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