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Disney-owned hotels ban smoking

Orlando Sentinel

Original Article »

May 02, 2007

No more smoking or nonsmoking room options at Walt Disney World hotels. No more foul, secondhand smoke lingering in a room or wafting down a hallway. And no more last, quiet cigarette of the night out on the balcony, under a rising Florida moon.

Disney World said Tuesday it is putting out cigarettes and cigars for good in its hotels and time-share buildings, making it the largest single-site resort complex to take such an action, company officials said. Starting June 1, smoking will be banned in all Disney-owned hotel rooms and time-share rooms, and on their balconies, patios and other areas except designated smoking zones.

"We've just continued to see the demand for smoking decline, and in the last several years it has really begun to fall off dramatically," Disney World Senior Vice President Erin Wallace said. "Less than 4 percent of our rooms today are being reserved for smokers. It's time to go the whole way."

As with its policy in the theme parks, Disney World will designate outdoor smoking areas in fairly private locations at all its hotels. Disney instituted a similar policy last year at its Disneyland hotels in California.

The ban reflects a national trend among hotels. However, some hotels not owned by the Walt Disney Co. on Disney World property, such as the Hilton on Hotel Plaza Boulevard, will continue to permit smoking.

Whether smokers will gravitate to those hotels is unclear. Wallace said Disney will help rebook hotel guests who already have reservations and were expecting to be able to smoke.

Smokers-rights advocate Chris McCalla of Columbus, Ga., thinks smokers will vote with their wallets. McCalla, legislative director for the Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, said 18 percent of the American population uses tobacco products. He said that's a big minority for any business to dismiss.

"A lot of members say, 'You know what? I'm not going back,' " he said. "If that's how they treat us, we won't go back."

Maybe. But Disney and hotel chains that already ban smoking are doing so in part to please the majority of their customers, said Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Nonsmokers are getting more and more assertive in objecting to secondhand smoke, he said.

"They want that there be no smoking in their presence. It's not just a couple feet away," Pizam said. "So this is answering the market demand. It's not just that Disney came up with the idea -- the idea came from the bottom up. The customers are demanding that."

It can be expensive to sneak a cigarette in a nonsmoking room. If Disney finds that someone did light up, a "cleaning fee" of $250 to $500 will be tacked onto the customer's bill. That is to cover the replacement of fabrics such as draperies and bedding, and the deep cleaning of everything else.

"We will charge them a cleaning fee. That's pretty typical in the industry," Wallace said. "We'll be clear to say no, and we're going to enforce the policy."

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