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Smokers fight move to close airport smoking rooms

The recent initiative by Korea Airports Corporation to remove smoking rooms from airports has got smokers fuming.

“Smokers are being unfairly inched out,” protested a smokers’ community in Korea, intuitively named “I Love Smoking,” Wednesday.

On June 25, the KAC said that indoor smoking lounges at 14 airports in Korea would gradually disappear and outdoor smoking areas would be moved further from areas with a lot of passenger traffic, in a bid to protect nonsmokers from second-hand smoking.

A smoking room at an airport (Yonhap)
A smoking room at an airport (Yonhap)

Through a statement, the I Love Smoking community asked the KAC to take back the proposed plan. A unilateral decision to close smoking spaces at airports is not the way to solve the issue of division between smokers and nonsmokers, the community said, adding that the move undermines the smokers’ basic right to happiness.

“Why not try using some of our tax money to build better separated smoking spaces,” the community suggested, stressing that the eradication of spaces for smokers would only backfire in breaching of nonsmoking areas.

Once past the security point at an airport, a traveler is often made to wait in front of the boarding gate, and in the case of the very frequently-occurring flight delays, the waiting time stretches, the community said. Making things difficult for smokers in this confined setting is an encroachment of their basic rights and not the right way to use the tax money from them, the community protested.

Smoking space in Korea is increasingly becoming limited. Cafes equipped with glass-enclosed smoking rooms were ordered by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to remove them by January, and smoking in public buildings and spaces is illegal as well as within 10-meter distance from bus and metro stops.

The South Korean law puts nonsmokers’ rights above smokers’ rights, under the reason that the nonsmokers’ rights include the right to life, while smokers’ right only adheres to that of freedom of privacy.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (