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It's time to change locations of smoking areas at Walt Disney World

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It's the beginning of January, and for many of us, that means a renewed focus on our health. We vow to eat better and stick to exercise routines. Many of our Disney friends who did not veer off track are even running in the races today during Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World.

But in addition to healthy eating and exercising, there is another factor affecting the health of Disney World guests who are forced to confront it every time they step into the parks -- secondhand smoke. Each park has designated smoking areas, which makes sense and which I appreciate. I just wish some of these designated areas were relocated to less-busy sections of the parks so kids (and adults!) are not forced to hold their breath as they walk through the clouds of smoke.

Of the four theme parks, the Magic Kingdom seems to have some of the worst-placed designated smoking areas, in my opinion. I cannot believe that guests are permitted to smoke on the walkways that run alongside Cinderella Castle. Sure, it's a central location, but it makes little sense to me that crowds of smokers should be allowed where visitors want to pause to admire the castle and even take photos in front of it. After all, Cinderella Castle is practically synonymous with Walt Disney World and attracts all guests in the parks, especially young children.

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Another smoking spot that I find almost as egregious is the Plaza Landing, which is surrounded by the Rose Garden, Tomorrowland Terrace and The Plaza restaurant. That location is prime real estate for fireworks viewing, but I certainly wouldn't choose to sit there, knowing my family and I would have to breathe the secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, the smoke also drifts to one side of Tomorrowland Terrace, where the nightly dessert party is held, and the iconic tables with the yellow umbrellas in front of The Plaza, so we generally bypass those, as well.

The fact is that smokers probably are no longer the majority of guests who visit the Magic Kingdom, so why are they being given the preferred locations to light up? It would make more sense to place the smoking sections in less-crowded areas.

There actually is one such designated smoking area that I think is located in an ideal spot. It's along the walkway between Tomorrowland and Storybook Circus. This area is not well-traveled, and there are alternative routes for guests who want to visit either land of the Magic Kingdom. Plus, it's an open-air section of the park, between the Walt Disney Railroad tracks and the Tomorrowland Speedway.

Smoking sections at Walt Disney World should be located in places where non-smokers are least affected by the health risks. It's time for a change at the Magic Kingdom. At Hollywood Studios, two of the designated smoking sections recently were closed. Perhaps that's in order at the Magic Kingdom, as well.



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Comments (19)

Deb Horvath:

We have thought this many times when we have visited the parks. They also could relocate smoking areas at the resorts as well. Pop Century is one of our favorites and the last time we were there the smoking area was immediately outside the doors on the pool side. I hope they recognize the need for changing these locations.

Tom W.:

It's enough that they have designated areas to meet the needs of their guests who wish to smoke. It is in consideration of the guests who choose not to smoke. It is not up to the guests who do not smoke to now also determine where these designated areas should be. Just because someone is a smoker and in perhaps in a minority these days, he should not be sent to the far reaches of areas to be out of our way.

Craig:

Something that I always enjoy at WDW is when I discover a spot where I can escape, at least momentarily, from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. One of the places I love at MK is the walkway between Tomorrowland and Storybook Circus. The smoking section on that walkway interferes with that relaxing walk and the chance to just watch the trains pull out of the station. Just because a spot isn't crowded doesn't mean it's a good place for a smoking area.

Jim:

Sorry Tom but I have to agree with Kristin, and I am a former smoker. It is a problem when your right to smoke interferes with my right not to have to suck up your toxic fumes. I feel that if Disney wishes to continue to allow smokers they should make smokers rooms like they have at airport. A closed space where the smokers can suck in all the toxins they wish and none else has to deal with it. One that always bothered me was right outside of Rock 'n Roller Coaster by the food court. Really? Smoking area next to food?

Jeff Blank:

Hi Kristin -
As one who studies the park maps, the Designated Smoking Areas have become fewer and fewer as the years have gone by since they were created. If you save the maps, take a look at how they've been removed over the years. I agree, some of the locations baffle me, e.g. the Adventureland DSA with the benches across from Aloha Isle (Dole Whip).

My opinion on why the Plaza Landing is a DSA is because it is off the main paths and is relatively empty for most of the day - even before it was a DSA, since the Counter Service restaurant is hardly ever open. Instead of removing it as a DSA entirely, prohibit smoking for an hour or two before and after Wishes and other Castle shows so the area can be cleaned and made available so a prime viewing area is available for non-smokers.

As you may have figured out, I am a smoker (Boo, Hiss, I know.). I do my best to be considerate of others, trying my best to position myself away from non-smokers as much as physically possible. When we stayed at Old Key West, I would walk to the emptiest area of the parking lot to smoke even thought there was a smoking area right outside my room. I know there are many inconsiderate smokers out there who smoke wherever they please. I don't appreciate them either.

As a smoker, I accept the restrictions on where I can light up. When the parks were "Smoke Everywhere," I would light up as I exited each attraction and would throw it out at the next attraction, even if it was only a few feet away, sometimes throwing away 90% of the cigarette. I smoke so much less now when I visit the Parks than back in the old days.

But, I might want a cigarette once in a while when I'm in the Parks. I go to the DSA's and appreciate that I don't have to walk so far off the beaten path that I'm in some former Off-Stage area. I do my best to keep my problem away from non-smokers and I think 99% of the smokers at Disney follow the rules also, so please cut us a little slack and let us enjoy the Parks too. It's a compromise and most smokers accept the restrictions, so please, let us have our 1% of the Parks so we may enjoy them and Make Memories with our families as you do yours.

- Jeff Blank

Amy :

At least I can do my best to avoid the smoking sections. What really bothers us the most is people who feel they can light up anywhere they please!

We had someone outside our room at Pop Century smoking any time he wanted - which was sucked into our room through the AC. Another time in the parks a man was smoking and two cast members stood right by and didn't have the courage to say stop!

If I had my choice, smoking would be banned everywhere in parks as it is on airplanes - I don't want to breathe in someone else's cancer-causing exhaust!

Maty Beth:

Hello, Kristin!
In reading your blog we couldn't agree more. The one that is real bothersome to us is the path from Sleepy Hollow restaurant along Cinderella's Castle. As a family we enjoy playing Sorcerers of The Magic Kingdom and that path is a great short cut to a lot of portals. This said, we were looking at a Magic Kingdom map from our last visit in Sept. 2013. We did not see a designated smoking spot on the map for that path so it is interesting to see so many people along there smoking and was it ever dirty. Even in the bushes people were leaving their dirty leftover cigarettes. We also hope Disney will reconsider the designated spots.

KRISTIN: You're right that the paths no longer are officially designated smoking areas, but guests still gather there like they are (as you mentioned). Unfortunately, I've never seen cast members ask them to stop.

Rebecca:

We thought this too on our last trip in Sept. We were trying to enjoy Dole Whips with our 3 little ones and felt overtaken by the clouds of smoke in Adventureland. The DSA along the castle walkways bothered us, too. it is so narrow and hard to avoid, especially when we were racing to get in line to meet Tiana and Merida. My husband even commented "Why would they let people smoke on the castle walkway??"

Faith:

Ah Kristin -- you posted a subject near and dear to my heart -- thank you so much! Over the years the smoking locations have certainly changed and morphed. Some made sense, others not-so-much.

Take animal kingdom.... there are over 500 acres and the smoking areas used to be in very isolated (beautiful!) areas where a lot of people didn't have to wander by. I really enjoyed those as I felt I wasn't impinging on anyone's air space. They are all gone and there's nothing between the area where the lion king show is and Asia. Both of these are in well trafficked areas -- I'm sure Disney has some complicated rationale but I can't see it.

I agree that the Magic Kingdom areas are also in high traffic areas and I make sure to be as quick and unobtrusive as possible but wonder why they are all so public. With all the real estate available there must be somewhere smoking can be allowed as to not impact others as much. Personally, I don't mind going to out of the way locations. It's relaxing to get away from the crowds for a bit.

I totally agree with Jeff -- 99% of the parks are non-smoking -- allow us a tiny locale. While at FQ I was out at 5:00 a.m. in an out-of-the-way smoking area reading and drinking coffee; a runner came by and felt it their duty to yell at me. Totally uncalled for.

Smoking is still legal and yes, we still have a choice. Help us, Disney, to compromise. Just call me the guiltiest smoker in America!!.

Katie:

Thank for posting this - and I fully agree and would even like to see the parks go completely smoke-free.

We have found Animal Kingdom to have horribly placed smoking areas. You couldn't even get to the old Festival of the Lion King location without going through a smoked-filled area.

We have actually taken the time to put in a complaint at Guest Services one day when the smoke was especially bad at AK, and we were told they had limited spots where they could put the smoking areas because it couldn't be near the animals because of the health issues secondhand smoke can cause. Disney is quiet aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke to mammals, but aren't doing anything to protect their guests.

We have continued to put in a complaint at every visit in hopes that one day the parks will be completely smoke free!!!

Michelle:

I really wish Disney would make the parks smoke-free. I feel like they can pretend that they allow smoking only in designated areas and tout their health-conscious ways. But in effect they allow people to smoke wherever they like because I have never seen a cast member tell someone to put out their cigarette when they were outside of a DSA. I would like to see the American Lung Assoc., or the American Cancer Society take up this battle with Disney. Disney should make all their parks smoke free. Allow smoking outside of parks only. But for now have cast members enforce smoking areas.

Darren:

I am so happy you addressed this issue. My wife and I comment on this problem each time we visit the World. My sons (11) and (8) just completed their 40th trip to the World. We are huge fans and know the parks like the back of our hands. My family will walk halfway around the park to skip a smoking area. However, there are a few areas you simply must hold your breath and walk through the "cloud." In addition to the areas you mentioned we do the breath-hold along the street between Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

My youngest was recently diagnosed with an immunity disorder and receives infusion treatments every 30 days. He no longer can walk an entire day at Disney and must be pushed in a push-chair. We have been appalled at the number of people who still smoke walking through the park even though they have been given the prime areas to take a break.

Two weeks ago we had an episode of someone lighting up during Wishes and my sons oxygen level dropped to 86%. Luckily we were in front of the Emporium and made our way to First Aid with the help of a cast member. Instead of ending our day with WISHES we were doing an emergency breathing treatment.

The overall smoking issue is better than it has been in the past, but I believe Disney needs to revisit the designated smoking areas and/or the smoking policy in general.

Lizzy:

I don't mind the smokers having their areas. It's not illegal and for the most part, I don't notice second-hand smoke. And to be honest, the only one I've ever noticed negatively is the one near Merida. I was debating to get in line for her, but was totally confused about the length of the actual line. And it bothered me that here was a collection of relatively stationary little ones (patiently waiting in line) right snuggled so close to what had to be the largest collection of smokers I've ever noticed at the parks. It seemed that the two different groups needed to be a little farther away to make everyone happy.

Peg :

Thank you for this blog, Kristin, I could not agree more. Smoking areas should be as far away from heavily traveled guest areas as possible. My choice not to smoke in no way affects another person's comfort or health, yet secondhand smoke affects me negatively, so if a smoker has to walk or ride their scooters a bit farther, I'm not too concerned.

Disney also has to rethink smoking areas at the resorts. Nothing worse than walking through a cloud of smoke on the way to the buses or way back to the resort at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Johnny:

Amen to that! Hey...if I had my way, the DSA would be out in the parking lot! I'm another one that is tired of having to hold my breath all the time.

Melanie :

I could not agree with you more! I hate that the two pathways alongside the Castle are designated smoking areas. I have no idea who thought that was a good idea. I understand that there are smokers, but as someone else posted, let them smoke in a designated room where they are the only ones subjected to the smoke! I was just there this past week for the marathon weekend, and I passed a woman in the Magic Kingdom going over the bridge towards Hall of Presidents, and she was smoking the whole time. Unbelievable.

Anonymous:

As an asthmatic, who has enough trouble breathing while hurrying through the parks as is, I agree with the need for designated smoking areas and further think that smoking only in those areas should be enforced. My aunt is a smoker and she can't take an hour long car ride without a cigarette, let alone a whole day in a park without one, so I won't go so far as to say the parks should be completely smoke free.

I like the idea that one of the previous posters had, to have smoking rooms like in airports. Perhaps around the bathrooms, so that they would be easy to locate, and with a nice air filtering system for the benefit of the smokers in the room and the other guests passing the areas when the doors open. Even smokers should be able to enjoy the magic of Disney! I just think it can be handled better.

Anonymous:

It was interesting to find this post. I am helping my family plan a Disney World trip, and my brother is very asthmatic and has terrible reactions to smoke. I'm concerned that he might get caught up in a walkway without realizing all the smokers around him. I am going to mark them on a map, but not knowing the layout of the parks might make it difficult for him not to accidentally walk through one.

I was a smoker for 10 years. I know how frustrating it can be to not have access to a designated smoking area. However, that smoking area should be off the main path. Others shouldn't have to breathe in toxins because a smoker chooses to do so. You would think Disney World of all places would take extra care to provide a good compromise that meets the needs of all their guests.

Anonymous:

Disney just needs to put in more smoking areas and the people will stay in them to smoke, now there are so few you just sneak one wherever you can and damn the consequences. At a recent stay at one of the resorts there were all kinds of people smoking while walking around, the result of not enough designated areas.

Why doesn't Disney take one resort from each price category and make it more smoking friendly? ...or at least a few buildings in the multiple building resorts could allow it on the balcony (with self extinguishing ashtrays provided). It would roughly match the smoking population and the non-smokers could have all the others to themselves.

I wonder what will happen when medical Marijuana becomes more mainstream... gonna deny someone their meds?

Most smokers try to be respectful, just wish non-smokers would be as
well sometimes.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 11, 2014 6:09 AM.

The previous post in this blog was A Disney fan's first impressions of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

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