I am not a smoker and have never even tried a cigarette. Nevertheless, I am empathetic to the plight of smokers, especially as airports increasingly enact anti-smoking policies.
London Heathrow has been smoke free for the last decade. LHR is also one of those airports in which finding a place to smoke is extremely difficult. The United Kingdom does not have exit controls, so once you pass through a security checkpoint, you are considered out of the country.
In order to smoke during a long layover, you must find an airport representative to escort you downstairs to passport control, pass through the UK Border, exit the building, walk for a ways, and then smoke in a designated area. That’s pretty rough.
While LHR re-introduced a designated indoor smoking area in 2013 intended for vaping, its website has been updated to state–
Heathrow is a smoke-free airport, in line with British law on smoking in enclosed public spaces.
Smoking is permitted in designated areas outside the terminal building.
Passengers are not permitted to use electronic cigarettes within our premises. Where you are intending to carry cigarettes in your hand luggage, please check with your airline to ensure they are allowed on board the aircraft.
Old language here.
Interestingly, the T4 map (.pdf, updated March 2017) still lists the smoking lounge…perhaps LHR just does not want to publicize it.
I stumbled upon a secret “smoking area” in T2 during my last visit.
I was flying EgyptAir and wanted to get a good shot of the aircraft prior to boarding. Consequently, I walked behind Caffé Nero near gate B44. The ground was littered with cigarettes. Best of all, it is protected from all CCTV cameras.
To be clear, I am not advocating that you break the law and smoke. I am simply noting what I observed.
There are also reports that British Airways turns a blind eye to smoking on the (indoor) balcony of the Terraces and First Class lounges in Terminal 5.
More civilized airports across Europe and Asia have smoking rooms. These specially-ventilated rooms keep smoke out of the concourse.
I’m old enough to remember trips to Germany and Greece where smoking was permitted everywhere. That’s horrible and not what I am advocating. But making a simple accommodation seems like a fair compromise. Travelers should not have the choice of sneaking a smoke in a stairwell or bathroom or losing 45 minutes for a three minute cigarette break.
Perhaps LHR should consider this if it is willing to turn a blind eye to the smoking habits I chronicle above.