Not surprisingly, levels of nicotine in the air were much higher in smoking than in non-smoking rooms, but levels in non-smoking rooms in hotels with partial bans were still 40 per cent higher than in hotels with complete bans. The non-smokers who stayed in hotels with partial bans also had higher levels of nicotine and tobacco byproducts such as cotinine in their urine and finger residue samples. Rooms that previously housed smokers retained traces of nicotine and other potential cancer-causing compounds (third-hand exposure) that were up to 35 times higher than levels found in hotels that enforced a complete ban on smoking.
Public health experts say that the only effective way to clear the air will be to eliminate indoor smoking altogether. While the obvious suggestion is that non-smokers choose hotels with complete smoking bans, the list of such establishments is minimal to say the least. So, far news reports suggest that specific Westin and Marriott properties in the U.S. and Canada have introduced a nosmoking policy since a while now. However, in the peak season, we are sometimes compelled to allow smoking patrons to occupy nonsmoking rooms. Therein lies the dilemma – what if the patron does smoke in the non-smoking room? While it may seem like a minor issue, the sensitivity to air pollution – both public and indoors – in the average patron, might prove this to be a cause of concern. It has been noted, in the UAE and internationally, that smokers who use non-smoking rooms, despite being warned about the room being for non-smokers, do continue to smoke in their rooms. Several hotels, especially abroad, also impose a penalty on such guests; however, sometimes guests dispute the charges and if charged on their credit card, get it reversed.
American Lawyer, Professor, Author, Keynote Speaker and Entrepreneur, Stephen Barth has, in a news report, suggested that must ask guests who are checking in to sign a document – or a new clause on an existing checkin document – that makes it clear that smoking cigarettes in a room and disposing used cigarettes in the hotel room trash can is banned and can result in additional charges.
Another option is for the housekeeping team to take matters into their hands. We can invest in devices that are now creeping into the market. For instance, a company FreshAir Sensors from New Hampshire, USA, has created a sophisticated smoke detection unit that can be hand held or fixed to a wall and send out Wi-Fi alerts as to when tobacco or marijuana smoke is detected. The company plans to launch two versions of this device – one later this year – and the other in 2016. The battery-powered, handheld unit communicates with the central system by Bluetooth connection to an Android phone. The other unit is a plug-in device that covers over and replaces a standard two-plug power outlet. It attaches via tamper-resistant screws, draws its own power from one outlet and provides a pass-through power outlet from the second. A wearable unit, too, will be launched to detect in real time nicotine from secondhand cigarette smoke or components of marijuana smoke. It records smoking events to internal memory so that a permanent record of time-stamped smoking events is retrievable.
This not only helps us detect tobacco smoke but allows us to assess a room before it is allotted to a nonsmoking guest.
The dilemma is not so much one if hotels are clear in their outlook – if they are looking for a casual revenue stream to boost business, then penalizing guests makes no sense, neither does investing in a device. However, if they are looking at preventing damage to their hotel rooms and reputation – policies regarding smoking vs. non-smoking must be strictly put in place.
Pamini Hemaprabha, Executive Housekeeper and Regional Rooms Specialist MENA, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
A professionally qualified Hotel Management graduate from India, Pamini Hemaprabha is a housekeeper with 11 years of hotel experience gained with international leading groups of Five Star hotels. Having worked in India, Egypt & UAE, Pamini has managed to nurture innovation in the field of housekeeping. She is currently employed with Kempinski Hotel Mall of Emirates as an Executive Housekeeper, Regional Rooms Specialist for the region Middle East Africa & Master Trainer for Housekeeping Essentials Worldwide for Kempinski Group of hotels.