Smoking fines in non-smoking hotels / by kevin murray

Nowadays there are plenty of hotels with strict non-smoking policies.  These policies are so strict that if the hotel suspects you of smoking via physical evidence of cigarette smoking within your hotel room, or possibly through just the smell of the air, that you can be subjected to fines of $150 to up to $500 depending upon the property.   A friend of mine recently suffered such a fine, she actually did smoke in the room, and the circumstantial evidence gathered against her was a couple of photographs of cigarettes butts in a "pseudo-ashtray".    The fine was $200 and she did not dispute it, despite the rather large charge which far exceeded the price of the room per night.


Because hotels are in the hospitality business they do have a conscious responsibility to provide each guest satisfaction and it would seem that a high monetary fine for smoking, in which evidence will at best be circumstantial, and sometimes subjective (it smelled like smoke), seems counter to their business model., especially when someone is erroneously accused of smoking, when they did not in fact smoke in the room.  While one can understand that the removal of a smoke smell within a room will necessitate further cleaning and special treatment, hotels have significant pricing power and consequently there isn't any doubt that their sophistication and effectiveness in correcting smoking issues in an efficient and cost-effective way would be part and parcel of their repertoire.   Consequently, the fines that are charged to the guests should realistically reflect the actual invoice work and possible loss of business involved, and nothing more than that.


Guests have a right to be upset when receiving such a fine, since no hotel that I have ever checked into, makes it a matter of policy, to carefully and slowly go over all their legal issues about things that you can't or cannot do in their rooms, and the fines and punishment that go along with disobeying said rules.  For instance, automobile and health insurance companies, make you check a box that you are a non-smoker, when issuing you your insurance card, in which, by checking the box, you have specifically stated that this is who you are.  Hotel companies that subject their guests to smoking fines, should follow the same policy, in which smokers are given instruction as to where they can legally smoke while staying at the property and have explained to them that they will be subject to a fine if this is violated.  Additionally, it's somewhat disturbing that the person that busts you for smoking, is often the housekeeper who is given a monetary bonus for catching smoking violations, which to me, seems rather perverse in its structure.


As you might suspect, government has gotten involved into the smoking and hospitality controversy, in which lawsuits have been successful against certain hotel chains for false advertising when advertising their property as non-smoking, when they are found to have smoke residue within their premises from guests that have broken these policies.  


This era is known as the ascent of the non-smoker, in which their rights trump all others.  Smoking is considered to be dirty, vile, dangerous, obscene, inconsiderate, and cigarette smoke is considered to exacerbate asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.  Despite this entire outcry about smoking, its smell, and its residue, in actuality the whole thing about smoking really come down to modifying societal behavior and hotels are just one more area in which the non-smokers have triumphed.