Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
May 2006

 Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed
Even the giant tobacco companies now admit that smoking causes or promotes cancer, premature aging, various pulmonary diseases, heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, halitosis, deadly fires, offensive smells, global warming, nuclear proliferation, discolored teeth, discolored fingers, war, and plagues of giant locusts.  The more progressive giant tobacco companies will also admit that smoking is to blame for most alien abductions, spontaneous human combustion, heartbreak of psoriasis, avian flu, and safes or pianos falling from high windows.  The tobacco companies will admit all this, on giant billboards along the Interstate, because it doesn’t matter to their cigarette sales at all.  Nicotine addiction is stronger than Super Glue, longer-lasting than eternal love, more inevitable than taxes.  Smokers pay absurd per-pack taxes, suffer social disapproval, and hack and cough like a dying lawnmower, and they still smoke.

Our local governments, of course, are quick to the rescue of nonsmokers.  In many cities, it is illegal to smoke in restaurants, bars, public buildings, subways, taxis, massage parlors, abandoned warehouses, roadside picnic areas and shoe-repair shops.  Other cities allow smoking in restaurants and bars, but only in designated smoking areas with air handlers capable of exchanging and filtering nine million cubic feet of air per minute, per smoker – which basically means each smoker must be provided with the equivalent of one of the vent hoods they use at Kentucky Fried Chicken, whose suction will remove any hat or toupee not secured to the smoker’s head with PolyGrip.  Every night you have to remove the filter and scrape out the cell phones, pocket change and crying infants.  In Calabasas, CA, it is now arguably illegal to smoke in your own back yard if you have neighbors within wafting distance, even if they are inside their homes watching Oprah.

But people still smoke in hotels, because for a smoker, nicotine is more important than sleep, or protection from the elements, or security, or anything else your guestroom offers.  Because smokers need a fix so badly, and nonsmokers are so disgusted by them, you must split your room inventory, reservations categories, restaurant/bar space, and practically everything else into “smoking” and “non-smoking.”  Put a smoking guest into a nonsmoking room and he will smoke anyway, using a bit of water in a drinking glass as an ashtray and flushing the evidence.  Put an ardent nonsmoker in a room that was smoked in three years ago last Sunday, and which has an ashtray buried in the nightstand drawer, and you will hear complaints about the room’s odor, safety, and dreadful carpet pattern.  Your housekeepers have cans of very expensive deodorizer that can mask the smell of a decaying buffalo sharing your phone booth, just so that you can have a little flexibility in room designation.

Now at least one major brand is crying, “Enough!  We will no longer allow anyone to smoke in our guestrooms, restaurants, loading docks, plumbing closets, elevator penthouses or anywhere else.”   Translation: “the approximately 23% of the population that smokes can just go somewhere else with their money.”  The idea is that the other 77% of the population will flock to this brand’s hotels, knowing that their lives won’t be shortened by an actuarial 13 seconds by secondhand smoke.

It’s a gutsy move.  And one which, if it succeeds, every other brand will copy, in the fine tradition of the hotel industry (examples: soon every hotel in the country will have free wi-fi access and better bedding than the Queen of Norway).  But this time, just following the no-smoker trend won’t work.  Smokers are a determined lot.  If we shut them out of hotel A, they will go to hotel B.  If we shut them out of both A and B, they will go to C, even if C is on the wrong side of the Interstate and has ugly wallpaper.  Shut them out of A, B and C, and they will sleep in their rental cars, shave in bus-station bathrooms, dress themselves in the shadowy places behind convenience store dumpsters.  Believe me, I know, I’m one of them.

So remember you heard it here, the next big thing: All-smoking hotels.  Want to grab 23% of your market practically overnight?  Drop that non-smoking chain affiliation and name your property “Le Nicotine.”  “Hackton Inn.”  “Emphysema Suites.”  “Coughyard by Marlboro.”  Put spittoons and ash urns everywhere.  Tear out that stupid health club and make a cigar room.  Splash your new skull-and-crossbones logo all over packs of complimentary matches.  Your Bic-flicking guests will be loyal to your hotel for the rest of their lives.

Even if that’s only a few days.

Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."

Larry Mundy
[email protected]

Also See: The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006

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