Editorial: Smoking bans mean nothing unenforced

SmokingA number of theme parks have now taken the populist approach of becoming ‘smoke free’, although the reality is somewhat different.

Originating with the parks operated by Merlin Entertainments, smoking in queues has been ‘banned’ for several years now, with more generalised smoking bans claimed shortly after.

Alton Towers was among the first to provide designated smoking areas, which are claimed to be the only areas of the park where smoking is permitted.

The restriction also bizarrely includes the use of electronic cigarettes.

However, as is the case with conventional cigarettes, it is a normal occurrence to walk past members of staff while smoking and not be challenged.

Parks are quick to highlight the fact that they are ‘smoke free’, but in reality they do not sufficiently – if at all – encourage staff to challenge those smoking in queue lines and in general when moving around the park.

Smokers are always an easy target for victimisation – around 80% of adults in the UK do not smoke – but it interesting that cigarettes remain available to purchase at Merlin’s theme parks.

If the health and wellbeing of parks’ guests is of paramount importance, why not move to challenge the behaviour of those smokers that flout the rules? After all, they are a minority of a minority.

It seems that bosses have calculated that the implications of aggravating any guest in direct confrontation are just not worth it.

5 comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    While visiting Legoland Windsor I have seen multiple people smoking whilst around the park with staff walking straight past them without commenting.

    If parks do not want customers to smoke then they need to provide more smoking areas (Lego only has 1 area for the entire park)and enforce the rule.

  2. Matt says:

    This is a problem in the US as well. (Although selling cigarettes in a non-smoking facility seems to deliver a mixed message).

    We found the lack of enforcement came from an employee not knowing how to approach a guest so they wouldn’t get upset. When we changed our wording to “Let me show you were you can smoke” rather than, “you can’t smoke here”, it became easier for employees to approach and the guests were not as upset. Like Adam, most folks immediately put out their cigarette or apologized because they didn’t know… or they stated that they didn’t know where to go. Whether they really didn’t know is immaterial, at least now the conversation is happening and the situation is being addressed.

    For a while, at one place I worked one of the number one complaints was, “I thought this was a non-smoking park, but none of your employees are enforcing the policy.” We saw this was a real issue that had to be addressed.

  3. Adam says:

    I am a smoker and I have been challenged several times at Alton Towers when I have been naughty and walked around smoking (NB: I DO NOT smoke in queue lines, near where food is being served or where is it overly crowded and could drift onto other people … it’s manners). When caught out I immediately put it out and carry on with my day … no problem. As a smoker the problem lies when you are with a group of people. I try to smoke in the designated areas but hate holding up the rest of the group (its very rare that there are other smokers in the group) while I indulge in the disgusting habit.

    Setting up smoking areas is a good thing. Its a horrible habit and should be discouraged at every opportunity. Hopefully one day I will kick the habit and have more time to enjoy coasters.

  4. Nigel says:

    While there is a general ban on smoking at Alton Towers. You never actually see anyone enforcing it when people are smoking outside of the designated areas. This is sad to see as you still get people smoking in the ride queues. This isnt helped by the 2-3hour queue you get on the smiler.

    While a total ban on smoking in the parks may be a little extreme. Banning the far less harmful e-cigs is a little stupid. I would rather be stood in a queue and have people using e-cigs than anything else. It would also be nice to see some form of enforcement of the no smoking.