Conference Centers Clear the Smoke on Trend

By Bruce Fears President, ARAMARK Harrison Lodging | February 22, 2010

People all over the world are taking a breath of fresh air - or at least trying to - and the trend toward smoke-free establishments has exploded throughout the U.S. and worldwide. This trend is fueled partly by local, state and national government agencies which are proposing strong smoke-free initiatives to allow its citizens to breathe easier and safer.

Furthermore, four countries have now established national laws prohibiting smoking at work and in public places. In 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in all enclosed places of work, followed by Norway, New Zealand and Bhutan. In addition, 14 U.S. states, nine Canadian provinces and territories, seven Australian states and now Scotland have all approved smoke-free legislation.

The trend has even run to the extreme with one Michigan-based company, Weyco Inc., a health care company, which has forced its staff to quit smoking or else risk being fired from their jobs. Under the new policy, the firm conducts breath tests to check employees for tobacco use. Four employees so far have been fired for refusing to take the test.

Although hotels, conference centers and meeting planners may not be taking the smoke-free phenomenon as far as the Michigan firm, they are finding that going smoke-free is quickly becoming the norm. Some companies in business and leisure industries are taking the lead and acting on the health concerns of its delegates. This year, the Westin hotel chain, for example, officially implemented the widest-spread complete smoking ban in the hotel industry, making 77 of its properties completely smoke-free.

The conference center industry is also closing in on the trend.

Conference Centers Step up to Ash Out

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