Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

RJR Smoking Lounge at Shopping Mall Draws Smokers, Controversy

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

RJR Smoking Lounge at Shopping Mall Draws Smokers, Controversy

Article excerpt

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Discreetly tucked away behind tinted windows, a smoker's lounge in the North Point Mall is filled with shoppers wanting a quick fix without having to light up in the chilly outside air.

The rest of the mall, like more than 80 percent of the malls in the United States, is smoke-free.

Sure smokers can light up in the mall restaurants, but the smoking lounge has a special distinction. It is one of two nationwide sponsored by R.J. Reynolds -- a move that has angered some who say the tobacco giant is targeting teens who like to hang out in the mall. "Who are the only ones that really spend a lot of time leisurely in shopping malls? Kids," said Kathleen Scheg, legislative counsel for Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-smoking group based in Washington. "It really shows how insincere the industry is in its claim that it doesn't want to encourage young people to take up smoking." Opponents say the lounge, which opened in September, sends a message that cigarettes are so popular, smokers get their own special room. "It's ridiculous. They should have to go outside and smoke," said Claudia Mitchell, a mother of four who lives in this wealthy Atlanta suburb. "It brings a negative into the mall." Lisa Shepherd, spokeswoman for North Point Mall, said mall managers didn't even consider that the lounge would tempt teens to smoke. At R.J. Reynolds' request, the lounge is open to those only 21 and older. (The legal age for buying cigarettes in Georgia is 18.) And, Shepherd said, the lounge has largely been well-received. She said she has received only a few letters from people who feel it is inappropriate. The mall has been smoke-free since it opened in 1994. North Point officials quickly embraced the idea for a smoking lounge when R.J. Reynolds pitched the idea last year. They hope smokers will do more shopping if they don't need to head outside for a cigarette. …

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