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Some hotels are banning smoking

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Nonsmoking guests in adjoining quarters don't have a lot of options when they're hit with noxious fumes, even with the new laws, said Kathleen Dachille, director of the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy at the University of Maryland School of Law. Your best bet is to complain immediately.

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Typically, a hotel will offer to move you to another room or, if the property is full, send you to another hotel without charging you extra, a process known as "walking" in the hotel industry. "If none of these remedies work, you send a letter to corporate and they'll send you a voucher for a free room," Dachille added.

Given the new rules, can an aggrieved guest find relief in court? Not really, Dachille said. You might have a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act, involving so-called "third-hand" smoke, or smoke residue left on surfaces and objects even after a cigarette has been extinguished. But it would be a tough fight and probably not worth the effort, she said.

Still, on balance, more hotels than ever are in the nonsmoking camp today.

"Smokers are a dying breed," said Travis Johnson, who manages the Morgan hotel in San Simeon, Calif., and who notes that cigarettes can be an expensive habit for the unfortunate traveler with a nicotine addiction. If guests at the Morgan are caught lighting up, they're charged a $150 cleaning fee.

I, for one, am breathing easier now that smoking in hotels is on its way out. I've lost count of the number of smoking rooms I've stayed in. The odor of stale cigarettes takes weeks to wash out of my clothes. I don't begrudge smokers their right to puff away -- just please, not in the bed I'm about to sleep in.

Turns out that even some Las Vegas resorts are sensitive to their image and are doing everything they can -- short of banning cigarettes -- to ensure that nonsmoking guests don't have to breathe lungfuls of toxic air.

The hotel I stayed in, the upscale Aria Resort & Casino in the gleaming new CityCenter, reportedly has a special ventilation system that's designed to keep cigarette smoke away from blackjack dealers.

I'd call that a winning hand.

Elliott is National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate. E-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.


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