Smoked Out

Marriott has embarked on what is arguably a seminal step in this industry’s marketing annals with its smoking ban. The lodging behemoth announced today that effective this september smoking will be banned not only in all rooms but also all public areas and restaurants and, most importantly, in employee work areas. The company needs to be lauded and emulated across the industry for its bold initiative that will surely incur the wrath of Big Tobacco who have historically run insidious campaigns that purportedly educate people about the dangers of smoking but brazenly promote it through a mix of subterfuge, chicanery and outright deceit.

The irony is that most smokers when booking a hotel room ask for a non-smoking room as they have no desire to inhale the stale residual odors that remain adamantly on surfaces in the room despite the best efforts of housekeeping. Apart from driving up cleaning costs, smoking in rooms is downright injurious to the housekeepers. Setting the same standard for all areas does a signal service to employees, non-smokers and smokers. The cancer society has fought a David versus Goliath battle against Big Tobacco but has, invariably, come up short in its campaign to steer people away from the practice. In New York City, the first hotel to go completely smoke-free (in 1998), the Comfort Inn in Times Square, was recognized by the American Cancer Society for its contribution in 2000. Marriott may well derive transitory publicity from its move, but that can hardly have been its primary motivation as the competition is sure to match the move in short order. Marriott’s move merits kudos from one and all.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.