Give smokers a break

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I just finished reporting on a couple of hotel chains that are bucking the non-smoking bans some of the larger hotel companies are implementing at their properties. While Westin was the first to ban smoking chain-wide in its hotels, followed by Marriott and others, some are choosing, well, choice, for their guests and franchisees. For Extended Stay Hotels, it makes sense, since its guests typically stay 20 days or more. Also, a fair number of its customers comprise international guests, who typically smoke more than U.S. guests.

Hilton Garden Inns has also recently âœcome outâ and mandated that its hotels will be given a choice as to whether they allow smoking or not. The issue was kicked around for a while, and ultimately it was decided that âœas a brand, it needs to be market driven as opposed to us mandating it,â says Adrian Kurre, senior VPÂ at HGI. So in North Carolina, where tobacco is king, a minimal amount of inventory may be held for smoking guests. In the more smoke-adverse California, hotels like the the HGI at LAX choose to be smoke-free.

I was surprised when Kurre told me that statistics show 23 percent of the U.S. population âœadmitsâ to smoking. That's a lot of guests to relegate to huddling outside in bad weather or expecting to go hours without a fix. Like alcohol, smoking is still legal after all.

I like Kurre. He is a voice of reason in the whole smoking/non-smoking debate. He sympathizes with those huddled masses furtively puffing under the porte-cochere, or worse, in dimly lit parking lots or other outside locales. âœSmokers get a bad rap,â says Kurre, âœand being a former smoker, I know that most are extremely polite and only smoke in designated areas and don't disperse their second hand smoke around non-smokers.

âœWe've had guests check out of our competitor's properties and check in with us and they're not even smokers,â says Kurre. âœBut they dislike corporations making the decision for them as to whether they can smoke in their hotels or not. And even in those hotels that are completely non smoking, we're saying that you can do that but you still need to treat smokers like first class citizensâso we'll have a nice area to go to outside and smokeâcovered areas if you're in a cold climate, plus heaters. They're still our guests and deserve good treatment.

âœObviously, we'd like to see nobody smoke,â says Kurre. âœAnd I'd be surprised if the usage numbers don't continue to fall as the younger generation is much more aware of the dangers of smoking. Eventually it will be a non-issue.â

Until then, let's give smokers a break.

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