Smokers win as Lee County authorities ease up on lighting up at airport

Should officials ban smoking outside Southwest Florida International Airport?

See the results »

View previous polls »

Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow wants to ban smoking right outside the entrance and exit doors of Southwest Florida International airport, requiring smokers to go across the street to light up.  It makes sense to Portland, Maine resident Fred Christman.  'I actually think it's a good idea.  I think non-smokers have to come in and out the door and smokers should have space farther away from the door.'

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER, Daily News

Lee County Commissioner Brian Bigelow wants to ban smoking right outside the entrance and exit doors of Southwest Florida International airport, requiring smokers to go across the street to light up. It makes sense to Portland, Maine resident Fred Christman. "I actually think it's a good idea. I think non-smokers have to come in and out the door and smokers should have space farther away from the door."

Southwest Florida International Airport

11000 Terminal Access Road, Fort Myers, FL

— Smokers can breathe easy for now.

The Lee County Port Authority agreed to a compromise Monday that would allow travelers to smoke outside the airport terminal but farther away from the two main doors on each level.

County commissioners, who also act as port commissioners, had asked its advisory committee to look into a full smoking ban.

“It’s not quite as far as I’d have hoped for but I think it’s a reasonable step,” said Commissioner Frank Mann.

Mann broached the ban after a friend from his church, a 70-year-old woman struggling with a lung illness and on oxygen, had to be wheeled through a cloud of smoke as she tried to catch a flight.

The airport will now move ash cans at least 50 feet from two main entrances on both the upper and lower level. The remaining eight entrances will have ash cans about 20 feet away from its doors.

The compromise was still disturbing to Commissioner Brian Bigelow, himself a former smoker.

“The toughest part about quitting was being reminded by inhaling someone else’s smoke,” Bigelow said, also commenting on health dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke.

Fran Myers, Airports Special Management Committee chairwoman, said the issue was complicated by enforcement issues surrounding a full ban.

The airport will also post new signs indicating smoking and non-smoking areas.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said 20 percent of the population smokes, translating to about 3 million people passing through the Fort Myers airport and 800 workers who smoke, said Peter Modys, the port authority’s deputy executive director of aviation.

He had told the advisory panel the airport had only received one complaint about smoking outside the airport doors.

Had Bonita Springs resident Robin Stewart known with whom she could file a complaint about smoke she would have, Stewart said.

“I grew up in a family where my mom smoked four packs a day and my dad smoked two,” Stewart said. “Both my parents died of lung cancer and smoking-related problems. ... I feel I’ve ingested more than fair share of secondhand smoke.”

She was thrilled to hear that commissioners agreed to the compromise.

“That’s wonderful that they’re at least trying to do something,” she said.

Jennifer Malneritch, a nonsmoker and freshman at Ave Maria returning from her Atlanta home, said she tries to walk around smoke when possible.

“I think the compromise makes sense,” she said. “It’s good to respect people worried about their health and also to help people who have that need to smoke.”

Amanda Hewitt, a smoker who lit up after arriving from Chicago on her way to visit grandparents in North Fort Myers, said she was glad a full ban wasn’t approved but said she would abide by one if it was.

“It’s several hours on the plane before they can have another cigarette,” Hewitt said. “I think if anything it will help nonsmokers. I’m a smoker who agrees with it.”

In other news, Tammy Hall was named chairwoman and Bob Janes was selected vice chairman.

Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 1

bcds3962 writes:

I musth have flown out of Ft. Myers International 30-40 times and I have NEVER seen a cloud of smoke one must pass through to enter. Oh, by the way, I'm a former smoker and being around smokers doesn't both me, in fact it delights me that I don't have the craving for one.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features