7 Event Planning Tips for Smoke-Free Event Venues

No Smoking More than 3 years ago, fellow Cvent blogger Sarah Larkins tackled the hotly debated topic of smoking during events:

(If your events have kicked the habit, then click the following link to find smoke-free event venues and destinations.)

While more and more jurisdictions in the U.S. have introduced smoking bans, others are considering it:


Smoking restrictions are something that event planners in Toronto and other parts of Ontario take for granted. After all, since the 2006 ban on indoor smoking, we're used to seeing smokers huddled outside office buildings, even in the middle of winter. Yet, even in Toronto, smoking is in the news again. About 1 1/2 weeks ago the National Post asked:

"Dr. Michael Siegel has been an anti-smoking advocate for 25 years, even testifying as an expert witness in a U.S. lawsuit that slapped the tobacco industry with a $145-billion verdict. He has stood before Congress and fought for smoking bans in restaurants, bars and casinos, and he supports smoke-free playgrounds because they are designed specifically for children.

Today though, Dr. Siegel is breaking ranks with his own movement because he fears it has gone too far, jeopardizing itself from within by crusading for bans in even the largest of outdoor public places such as parks and beaches."

Not that long ago, I remember dining at Paris restaurants where I couldn't taste the food because of the smoke. Even the waiters were taking drags. I also remember the halls outside function rooms being filled with smoke during breaks at Kuala Lumpur hotels. That's changing.

Shisha AreaEven in overseas destinations that have a high percentage of smokers, smoking restrictions have been instituted or they are in the pipeline.

It's just a matter of time before smoking restrictions will come to a jurisdiction near you. So, what can event planners learn from their colleagues who have been planning events in smoke-free environments for quite some time now?

  1. When planning corporate events, always ask about the percentage of smokers in the group.
  2. Select event venues and function rooms that have easy access to outdoor areas where smoking is permitted.
    Scenario: For a corporate client, my firm once organized a game show styled, after dinner team event. The client had selected the group dining venue at a hotel without taking smoking into account.

    The sit-down dinner was delayed significantly as smokers popped in and out. Hotel staff clung rigidly to quality standards that dictated that everyone must present at a table before the next course could be served. As my company hadn't planned the event, we were powerless to intervene. Finally, with the game show host, we decided to start the activity before dessert and coffee had been served. The hotel had an 11:00 PM curfew on weeknights so we were at the point of no return. It was a challenge to capture the attention of the group while dessert and coffee were still being served

  3. During summer months, consider an open, outdoor dining venue and have designated smoking tables. (Naturally, an indoor back up will also be necessary).
  4. For team building and other events that involve working in teams, group the smokers together on the same teams.
    You'll find that smokers will opt to do some of the group exercises outdoors (weather permitting) and you'll avoid clashes between smokers and non-smokers.
    Select meeting venues that have some outdoor breakout areas.
  5. When developing rooming lists, group smokers and non-smokers separately.
  6. Ensure that you build in enough breaks during business meetings and corporate retreats.
    You'll pay the price in the form of negative reviews if you don't accommodate the needs of smokers.

What other tips have YOU found to be effective when planning events in smoke-free environments?

Photo Credit: hegarty_david

Photo Credit: secretlondon


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