July 23, 2006


Marriott Hotels Ban Smoking In Rooms (Michael S. Rosenwald, 7/20/06, Washington Post)

Marriott International Inc., the nation's largest hotel chain, said yesterday that it will ban smoking in its nearly 400,000 hotel rooms in the United States and Canada, casting the decision as less about public health and more about taking care of the bottom line.

Two decades ago, about half the company's rooms were set aside for smokers, but demand has steadily dropped, with only 5 percent of customers now requesting smoking rooms. At the same time, complaints about cigarette odor have increased, and company officials have struggled to address the issue.

When a company with as many hotel rooms as Marriott takes the plunge, everybody else will follow.

Posted by Matt Murphy at July 23, 2006 11:15 PM

Not everyone.

For one thing, while perhaps only 5% of Marriott's guests request smoking rooms, far more than 5% actually smoke in their rooms.

For another, a "no smoking" policy automatically excludes roughly 25% of the adult population.

Therefore, one or more national chains will see that they can gain a competitive advantage by accomodating smokers, should banning smoking catch on in the lodging industry.

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at July 24, 2006 6:48 AM


But that 25% of the population probably doesn't stay in pricey hotels very often. Many vices are concentrated in the socio-economically lower classes, and they must suffer the determination of the upper and middle-classes to order their lives by force once the latter has left them behind in favour of things like extreme sports and compulsive jogging that cost us millions in hip repacements and knee surgery. But those vices that the middle classes enjoy, like booze, are seen much differently.

Why, there is even a righteous blogger who holds than smoking is a secular liberal abomination no self-respecting puritan nation would tolerate, while alcohol is a Judeo-Christian social lubricant that keeps us all bonded.

Posted by: Peter B at July 24, 2006 7:46 AM

It is a better deal for the higher-scale hotel/motel chains, and those that cater more to white collar business than to highway stop/overnight stays. It will be interesting to see if French-based Accor does anything similar with its hotel chains in the U.S. that cater to a higher percentage of guests who smoke (though given France's love for tobacco, I wouldn't count on them jumping on Marriott's bandwagon any time soon).

Posted by: John at July 24, 2006 9:17 AM

Peter. You're right about class differences separating us and it's not only smoking and drinking. There's widespread obesity among the working/non-working classes who are much more likely to be influenced by TV ads for beer and fast food than are the middle or upper classes. This is just another example of the failure of our public school system to educate and inform.

Marriott Hotels has, no doubt, done their homework and made the correct business decision for the customers they want to attract. As for smoking in non-smoking hotel rooms, if it becomes a problem, there are sensors easily installed to discourage it.

I'll bet their insurance rates will go down and possibly the hotel chains that don't ban smoking in their rooms will see their rates go up, so we'll all be able to breath better.

Posted by: erp at July 24, 2006 9:23 AM

There's certainly less obesity among the upper classes than there is among the working class, but I'm not sure that much of the decrease in obesity between socioeconomic groups can be attributed to our betters being more resistant to the lure of alcohol and food, although there is some of that.

Rather, I would attribute most of the reduction to the upper classes being much more body-conscious, as their professional lives or social positions would often suffer if they let themselves go, combined with the wherewithal for personal trainers, nutritionists, personal chefs, and liposuction (which probably should lead the list).

Posted by: Noam Chomsky at July 24, 2006 11:33 AM

Just imagine how fat us working class people would get if they took our smokes away.

Posted by: ted welter at July 24, 2006 11:39 AM

Noam said: "a "no smoking" policy automatically excludes roughly 25% of the adult population."

Mariott's rooms don't have balconies?

Posted by: mf at July 25, 2006 12:37 AM

I would say at least some of this is attributable to the fact that Mariott's ownership is very actively Mormon. I doubt they needed much convincing on the matter.

I think it's great, though. Even before I quit smoking I thought it was ridiculous that smokers couldn't just go on to the balcony or outside somewhere to take care of it. This is much better than passing ordinances.

Posted by: R. Alex at July 25, 2006 4:05 AM

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I posted this article and that I work for Marriott. I would've mentioned this earlier but the comments section was kaput.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at July 25, 2006 10:31 PM