Still smoking? Be careful before you rent a car

Whether they smoke or not, most travelers are used to the fact that smoking is no longer an option in the air. But, while it’s received less publicity, most rental car companies in the U.S. have quietly followed suit. Avis-Budget, Alamo-National-Enterprise and most recently Dollar-Thrifty, have all moved to a non-smoking fleet.

Of the major domestic companies, only Hertz still officially allows smoking; however, not in all vehicles.
Now, this is a policy that makes sense in a lot of ways, not just health-related. It saves rental car companies a lot of cleaning costs to have non-smoking fleets. (Indeed, companies with a non-smoking policy now charge up to $250 to clean the car if they determine a renter has violated their rule.)
I’m a lifelong nonsmoking. But, while I’m not not particularly sensitive to cigarette smoke, like most travelers I do have a couple memories of renting cars where it was particularly noticeable. (One PT Cruiser from Dollar a few years ago was like driving in an ashtray, although by the time after a late arrival that I realized just how bad it was, I decided it wasn’t worth the time to go back to the airport.)
On the other hand, I do have clients and friends who smoke. This post was inspired by a client who asked if there was a way to specify a smoking car.
As it turns out, Hertz is the only company that officially allows smoking. They indicate that while travelers can make requests, there is no way to guarantee either smoking or nonsmoking vehicles.
Avis-Budget and Dollar-Thrifty are very specific about their non-smoking policies and fines. Although with Alamo, National, and Enterprise, all owned by Enterprise Holdings the simply policy states, “All vehicles are considered non-smoking. Additional cleaning fees may apply if a vehicle is returned in a condition where it needs to be extensively cleaned and deodorized due to smoking.”
My sense is that for most travelers these policies are a good thing. Nicotine addicts certainly have the option with a rental car, unlike on a plane, to stop the car at their leisure and take a smoking break. Although, I am not without some sympathy for smokers on long evening highway drives.
What do you think, Consumer Traveler readers? Would you like the whole rental car industry to go smoke free? Or, would you like companies to keep smoking cars around as an option, possibly for an additional cost. For that matter, what do you think about the scented deodorizer many companies use? Some travelers complain that they smell worse than smoke.
Photo: superfantastic, Flickr Creative Commons