The Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport by passenger traffic since 1998, will completely ban smoking and vaping on Jan. 2, 2020.

The ban will affect all enclosed public spaces at the airport. Passengers that insist on smoking and vaping will be directed to smoking areas outside of both airport terminals.

Atlanta International currently has about a dozen lounges where smokers can light-up. The lounges were initially paid for by Phillip Morris ahead of the 1996 summer Olympics held in the city. City officials said the lounges will be put to other uses.

Airport officials previously defended the smoking lounges, claiming they also benefited non-smokers by keeping secondhand smoke away from non-smoking guests. The lounges also prevented smokers from smoking in restrooms and other spaces.

“We plan to work with our airline partners to make sure they communicate with their customers that smoking is no longer permitted at ATL,” said Jennifer Ogunsola, spokeswoman for Hartsfield-Jackson. “We also will have PSA (public service announcements) messaging throughout the airport, as well as permanent and digital signage with like messaging.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said exposure to secondhand smoke has been steadily decreasing in the United States, due mainly to the adoption of smoke-free policies prohibiting indoor smoking at worksites, restaurants and bars.

“However, an estimated 58 million, or 1 in 4, Americans remain exposed to secondhand smoke in areas not covered by these policies, including certain airports,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation at CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

“The good news is that we know what works to protect people from this completely preventable health risk,” said King. “Implementing smoke-free policies in indoor public areas is the best way to fully protect everyone, including airport travelers and employees, from the deadly risks of secondhand smoke exposure.”

CDC also said designated indoor smoking areas or lounges at airports aren’t effective in eliminating secondhand smoke exposure.

Atlanta International’s move to make itself smoke-free is “huge,” said Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights and the ANR Foundation.

“As the airport with the largest passenger volume and a huge workforce, both flight crews and airport staff, going smoke-free means that millions of people will be fully protected from exposure to secondhand smoke,” she said.

Now, said Hallett, it’s time for the handful of other U.S. airports that still have smoking lounges to follow Atlanta’s lead.

“Many airports have repurposed smoking lounges for much desired spaces to sit, including electronic device charging stations or more food options,” she said.

The new prohibition was triggered by a new and tougher city ordinance proscribing smoking and vaping in bars, restaurants and other enclosed public spaces.

The Atlanta City Council on June 3 voted to implement a wide-ranging ban on smoking and vaping in restaurants, bars, workplaces and many other public places in the city, as well as at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Council members voted 13-2 in favor of the ordinance, which was later signed by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Specifically, the ban prohibits smoking and vaping in bars, restaurants, places of employment, hotel and motel rooms and other enclosed public areas. It covers cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes.

Advocates said they want to reduce health risks to nonsmokers. They pointed out smoke-free policies can reduce smoking rates and prevent young people from starting to smoke.

“Everyone in Atlanta has the right to breathe smoke-free air,” said council member Matt Westmoreland, lead sponsor of the legislation.

Smoking was already restricted by a Georgia law passed in 2005.