The last refuge for smokers at Will Rogers World Airport — a musty, windowless room with yellowed walls off the main terminal — is set to close in September.
The Oklahoma City Airport Trust voted unanimously last week to shut down the smoking room at the airport on Sept. 1.
The smoking lounge sparked complaints from travelers as well as airport workers, said Karen Carney, airport spokeswoman.
“We've been trying to move toward a smoke-free facility, and this is one of the last things we have,” Carney said. “It is a really difficult space not only to keep clean, but to prevent secondhand smoke from coming out into the concourse.”
After the lounge is closed, smokers at the airport will be relegated to outside.
Smoking at Will Rogers also is banned up to 175 feet away from the entrance areas.
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention study released in November found that air pollution levels outside of designated smoking areas in airports are five times higher than in smoke-free airports.
While many airports have moved to smoke-free status over the past several years, five of the 29 largest airports in the United States still allow smoking in designated areas, according to the study.
Harold Smith, who runs the shoeshine stand near the smoking lounge at Will Rogers said that although he has grown accustomed to the smoke that wafts down the hall from the lounge, he is glad it will be closed.
Smith, who has run the shoeshine stand at Will Rogers for the past 26 years, said he is concerned about the effects of breathing in so much secondhand smoke.
“They should shut it down,” he said. “It really is a health hazard.”
Smokers in the lounge one recent weekday afternoon were divided on whether the room should be closed.
Atoka resident William Turner, who was on his way to Oregon for the Fourth of July holiday, said he understands that other travelers might be bothered by his secondhand smoke.
“I'll just go outside,” Turner said. “It's the choice that smokers make.”
Rachel Bonney, an Army private who stopped at Will Rogers for a last cigarette before starting on a trip home to Syracuse, N.Y., from Fort Sill, said she was upset that the lounge would close.
“For smokers who don't fly a lot, you need a cigarette to calm you down,” Bonney said.
What will Bonney do once smoking is banned at the airport?
“Drink,” she said.