I frequently fly the smoke-filled skies of America, and there are few experiences that infuriate me more than being force-fed the putrid air spewing forth from the smoking section of commercial aircraft. Smoking on airplanes (and in airports) should be banned.

Separation of smoking from nonsmoking sections does not work, as any person with an ordinary olfactory organ can confirm, (not to mention the paying passenger with a pulmonary problem). Smoke travels, and the airlines, to save money on fuel consumption, choose not to ventilate the cabin with enough fresh air from the outside to counteract the polluted, passive tobacco smoke that pervades the interior compartment.

Airline pilots have objected to the proposed smoking ban on grounds that recalcitrant passengers might sneak a smoke in the lavatory, causing a potential safety hazard. There are already simple solutions to protect against such violators: bathroom smoke alarms and halogen-type extinguishers concealed in the restroom trash containers that automatically activate if fire is detected. So much for the safety factor. It was probably just a smoke screen anyway.

I urge every passenger who resents being a prisoner of passive pollution on our nation's airlines to support the ban on smoking (the Durbin Amendment), which passed the House of Representatives in July and which should reach the Senate soon. With all the evidence on the deleterious effects of passive tobacco smoke, there is absolutely no excuse for failure to enact this belated ban. Smoke-free air travel is long overdue.

COURTNEY GARTON Annapolis