FORT MYERS — Travelers may soon have to walk a few extra feet before lighting up outside Southwest Florida International Airport.
The Airports Special Management Committee begrudgingly agreed Tuesday to recommend restricting smoking to 50 feet from the two main entrances on both the upper and lower decks.
The panel, which advises the Lee County Board of County Commissioners who sit as Lee County Port Authority commissioners, had been asked by the commissioners to study a smoking ban.
But some committee members said they did not believe the current system was broken so providing an alternative could be an end run around a total smoking ban.
“I was hoping we could give something back to the commissioners because I feel there’s probably the votes here to ban it,” chairwoman Fran Myers said.
Commissioner Frank Mann had suggested a full smoking ban in November after he learned a constituent on oxygen had to be wheeled through a cloud of smoke to enter the airport. Myers said commissioners Ray Judah and Brian Bigelow also supported a ban.
Peter Modys, deputy executive director of aviation, said the airport has only received one complaint about smoking outside the airport doors. The airport’s 31 ash cans were about 20 feet away from doors.
Modys said 3 million people passing through the Fort Myers airport and 800 workers smoke based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report stating 20 percent of the population smokes.
His presentation of possible solutions and their pros and cons boiled down to few benefits with many costs.
A total ban would eliminate second-hand smoke issues, he said, but the disadvantages included increasing signs to notify the public, dealing with complaints from smokers and dealing with increased litter.
He said cutting back on smoking locations would also create problems.
“The more you push the smokers out the more objectionable they will likely become,” Modys said.
Committee member Kitty Green said she trusted that the current situation represented the best effort to keep smokers away from the doors and made a motion to recommend no changes to the policy.
“The commission may not have been terribly educated on what the situation is,” Kitty Green said.
The motion failed.
“Unless we resolve this here, we may end up with something we don’t like,” said Rufus Lazzell.
The final solution came after a recommendation from Executive Director Bob Ball, who cannot make motions but whose suggestion became a motion and final recommendation.
The motion to ban smoking within 50 feet of the two main entrances on the upper deck and the two main entrances on the lower deck passed 7-0.
Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/