Where To Smoke At San Francisco International Airport: A Guide To Designated Smoking Areas

Looking to light up during a layover at San Francisco International Airport? With California’s strict smoking laws, finding a place to smoke at SFO can be tricky. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about smoking areas at the major Bay Area airport.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: There are 5 designated outdoor smoking areas at SFO’s terminals. The easiest to find are in the parking garages near Terminals 1 and 2. There are no indoor smoking areas.

In this roughly 3000 word guide, we’ll cover the history of smoking restrictions at SFO, go over the airport’s official smoking policy, list the locations of all designated smoking areas, provide tips for finding the smoking spots, discuss penalties for smoking outside of the designated areas, and compare SFO’s policies to other major US airports.

Background on Smoking at SFO

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all travelers. As part of this commitment, the airport has implemented strict regulations on smoking to ensure the well-being of both smokers and non-smokers alike.

California’s Early Adoption of Smoke-Free Air Laws

California has long been at the forefront of tobacco control measures, implementing some of the most stringent smoke-free air laws in the United States. In 1994, the state passed the California Smoke-Free Workplace Act, which prohibited smoking in enclosed workplaces, including airports.

This legislation was a significant step in protecting the health and well-being of employees and travelers. It recognized the dangers of secondhand smoke and aimed to create a smoke-free environment in public spaces.

Timeline of Smoking Bans at SFO

SFO has implemented a series of smoking bans over the years to align with California’s smoke-free air laws. These bans have gradually restricted smoking areas within the airport, ultimately leading to the implementation of designated smoking areas.

Here is a timeline highlighting the key milestones in SFO’s smoking ban history:

  • 1994: Smoking prohibited in enclosed workplaces, including airports, under the California Smoke-Free Workplace Act.
  • 2003: SFO establishes designated smoking areas outside the terminals.
  • 2015: Smoking banned within 20 feet of all airport entrances and outdoor areas.
  • 2018: SFO becomes a smoke-free airport, with all designated smoking areas permanently closed.

These measures reflect the airport’s commitment to providing a healthy and smoke-free environment for all passengers and employees.

For more information on California’s smoke-free air laws, you can visit the California Department of Public Health website.

Locations of Designated Smoking Areas at SFO

Terminal 1 – Boarding Area C Curbside

For smokers passing through Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), there is a designated smoking area conveniently located at the Boarding Area C Curbside. This area provides a space for travelers to enjoy a cigarette or vape before their flight.

It’s important to note that smoking is not permitted inside the terminal building or in any other areas not specifically designated for smoking.

Terminal 2 – Parking Garage, Level 1

If you find yourself in Terminal 2 at SFO and need a smoke break, head to the Parking Garage on Level 1. Here, you will find a designated smoking area where you can indulge in your smoking habit. Remember to properly dispose of your cigarette butts in the provided receptacles to help keep the area clean and free of litter.

Terminal 3 – Parking Garage, Level 1

Travelers passing through Terminal 3 at SFO can also find a designated smoking area on Level 1 of the Parking Garage. This area offers a convenient location for smokers to take a break and enjoy a cigarette or vape before continuing on with their journey.

It’s worth mentioning that smoking is not permitted in any other areas of the terminal or airport.

International Terminal – Upper Level Roadway near Boarding Area A

For those traveling internationally from SFO, there is a designated smoking area available near Boarding Area A on the Upper Level Roadway of the International Terminal. This area provides a space for smokers to relax and smoke before their international flight.

Remember to be considerate of others and follow any posted rules or regulations while using the designated smoking area.

International Terminal – Departures Level, Post-Security near Boarding Area G

Another designated smoking area can be found in the International Terminal at SFO, specifically on the Departures Level, post-security, near Boarding Area G. This area allows international travelers to have a smoke break before their flight, ensuring they can enjoy their journey in a comfortable and stress-free manner.

Remember to adhere to any smoking regulations and dispose of cigarette butts properly.

For more information on smoking regulations and designated smoking areas at SFO, you can visit the official website of San Francisco International Airport. It’s always a good idea to check for any updates or changes to smoking policies before your trip to ensure a smooth and hassle-free travel experience.

Tips for Finding the Smoking Areas

Smoking areas at airports can sometimes be hard to find, but don’t worry! Here are some useful tips to help you locate the designated smoking areas at San Francisco International Airport.

Use Signage to Locate the Designated Areas

When you arrive at the airport, keep an eye out for signs that indicate the location of the smoking areas. These signs are usually placed strategically throughout the terminal buildings and can guide you in the right direction.

Look for symbols or words like “Smoking Area” or “Designated Smoking Zone” to help you spot them easily.

It’s important to note that smoking is prohibited in most public areas of the airport, so it’s essential to follow the signage to ensure you find a dedicated space where smoking is allowed.

Ask Airport Staff for Directions

If you’re having trouble finding the smoking areas despite looking for signage, don’t hesitate to ask airport staff for directions. They are there to assist you and can provide you with accurate information on the location of the designated smoking areas.

Whether you ask a security officer, a customer service representative, or a staff member at an information desk, they will be able to guide you to the nearest smoking area. Remember to be polite and respectful when approaching airport staff for assistance.

Have Your Boarding Pass Ready

Some airports require passengers to present their boarding passes to access the designated smoking areas. Before heading to the smoking area, make sure to have your boarding pass readily available. This will help streamline the process and ensure a smooth experience.

By having your boarding pass ready, you’ll save time and avoid any unnecessary delays or inconvenience. So, make sure to keep it easily accessible, such as in your pocket or your handbag.

Follow Your Nose

If all else fails, follow your nose! Smoking areas often have ventilation systems in place to minimize the impact of smoke on non-smokers. As you walk through the airport, you might catch a whiff of cigarette smoke, which could lead you to the designated smoking area.

Keep in mind that smoking areas may be located in specific areas of the airport, such as near certain gates or lounges. So, be aware of your surroundings and trust your sense of smell to guide you in the right direction.

Remember, it’s important to be respectful of non-smokers and adhere to the designated smoking areas. Smoking in non-designated areas can result in fines or penalties, so it’s best to follow the rules and regulations set by the airport.

For more information on smoking regulations at San Francisco International Airport, you can visit their official website https://www.flysfo.com/.

SFO’s Smoking Policies and Penalties

No Smoking Except in Designated Areas

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has strict policies regarding smoking within its premises. Passengers and visitors are not allowed to smoke except in designated smoking areas. These areas are specifically designated to accommodate those who wish to smoke while ensuring the comfort and safety of non-smokers.

It is important to note that smoking is strictly prohibited in all other areas of the airport, including terminals, concourses, and restaurants.

According to the SFO website, the designated smoking areas can be found in the following locations:

  • Terminal 1: Near Gate 23
  • Terminal 2: Near Gate 56
  • Terminal 3: Near Gate 75
  • International Terminal: Near Gate A11

These designated smoking areas are equipped with proper ventilation systems to minimize the impact of secondhand smoke on others. However, it is important to be considerate of those around you and to dispose of cigarette butts properly in the provided receptacles.

Fines for Breaking the Rules

SFO takes its smoking policies seriously, and there are penalties in place for those who fail to comply with the rules. If caught smoking in a non-designated area, individuals may be subject to fines. The exact amount of the fine may vary, but it can range from $100 to $250, depending on the severity of the violation.

To ensure a pleasant experience for all passengers and visitors, it is strongly advised to adhere to the smoking policies at SFO. Ignoring the rules not only puts you at risk of facing penalties but also disrupts the comfort and well-being of those around you.

For more information about SFO’s smoking policies and designated smoking areas, please visit the official SFO website.

How SFO’s Smoking Policies Compare to Other Airports

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has implemented smoking policies that are in line with the increasing trend of airports becoming smoke-free environments. However, it is important to note that SFO still has designated smoking areas available for travelers who wish to smoke before or after their flights.

Smoking Still Allowed Indoors at Some Airports

Unlike SFO, there are still a few airports that allow smoking indoors. These airports typically have designated smoking lounges or smoking rooms where passengers can go to smoke without having to leave the terminal.

However, it is worth mentioning that these airports are becoming increasingly rare as more airports opt for smoke-free policies.

For example, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) currently has smoking lounges available in certain concourses. These lounges are equipped with ventilation systems to minimize the impact of secondhand smoke on non-smoking passengers.

Similarly, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (LAS) also has designated smoking areas located throughout the terminals.

Trend Toward More Restrictive Policies

The majority of airports, including SFO, have adopted more restrictive smoking policies, prohibiting smoking indoors and limiting smoking to designated outdoor areas. This is in line with the growing recognition of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke and the desire to create a healthier and more comfortable environment for all travelers.

While SFO’s smoking areas are still available, they are located in designated outdoor spaces away from the main terminals. This ensures that non-smoking passengers are not exposed to secondhand smoke while still providing a designated area for smokers.

It is important for travelers to be aware of these smoking policies before their flights, as they may need to plan accordingly if they wish to smoke. Additionally, it is worth noting that some airports have implemented strict penalties for smoking in non-designated areas, including fines and potential loss of travel privileges.

For more information on smoking policies at various airports, you can visit https://www.airport-technology.com/features/smoking-rooms-in-airports/ which provides a comprehensive overview of the smoking policies at airports around the world.


While opportunities to smoke at SFO are limited compared to many other airports, following this guide should help nicotine-craving travelers find the designated smoking spots. Understanding the airport’s strict policies and potential penalties can also help avoid any issues.

With preparations and realistic expectations, smokers can navigate SFO’s smoke-free environment during layovers and wait out those long San Francisco fog delays.

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