May 29 2014
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‘It Makes You Want to Smoke’

Citylab—formerly Atlantic Citiesreported recently on an architectural award bestowed by Residential Architect on the Corinthian Gardens Smokers Shelter, a 275-square-foot structure in Des Moines, Iowa. It was created by local architectural firm ASK Studio for smokers who live in a nearby apartment building. “This project serves as a reminder that smokers aren’t extinct by quietly celebrating an activity that has gone from banal to banned,” reads the description on the publication’s online portal.

“It’s the sort of structure that has the feel of a private clubhouse for the tobacco-initiated,” according to award juror Cary Bernstein, whose comments were published by Residential Architect. “It makes you want to smoke so you can be in it.”

Wisely, the materials used to construct the shelter are nonflammable. Smokers get benches to sit on while they smoke and lighting for security after dark.

Corinthian Gardens is hardly the only such smoking shelter in the United States. An online search finds several companies that make the shelters, although none seem as glitzy as the one in Des Moines. And late last year a judge in Great Falls, Montana, ruled that smoking shelters that also house gambling machines don’t violate the city’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

So far, it seems, the shelters are legal so long as they adhere to rules governing smoking in the state or city they’re in, such as being built the requisite distance away from a building to avoid blowing second hand smoke at non-smokers. But tobacco- control advocates worry that the shelters, especially the recent award winner, can hurt the goals of completely eradicating smoking as a social norm—especially when 19 percent of U.S. adults still smoke.

“The fact that people are being protected from the elements is fine, we support the design perspective, but we worry about anything that normalizes or glamorizes smoking,” said Robin Koval, president and CEO of tobacco control advocacy group Legacy.

“We don’t’ hate smokers, we love smokers, what we hate is tobacco,” said Koval, “and so you have to call the structure what it is: a waiting room for the cancer ward because one out of two people who use it will die of tobacco-related diseases. To us that’s really the issue.”

Tags: Tobacco, Tobacco Control