Inflight smoking

"No smoking" sign, as seen on most passenger flights worldwide

Inflight smoking is prohibited by almost all airlines. Smoking on domestic U.S. airliners, for instance, was banned on all domestic flights with a duration of two hours or less beginning in 1988, with all planes being smoke-free by the end of the 1990s.[1] According to FAA regulations, smoking lit cigarettes or anything else that produces smoke or flame is prohibited onboard most commercial aircraft.[2] As of October 2015, the USDOT prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes on flights, as well as such devices from being transported in checked luggage.[3]

Advocate Ralph Nader was among the first to call for a smoking ban on airlines. United Airlines was the first to implement a nonsmoking section, in 1971.[4] However, both tobacco companies and airlines fought any regulation.[4] Significantly, the Civil Aeronautics Board banned and then unbanned smoking in 1984, with chairman Dan McKinnon saying, "Philosophically, I think nonsmokers have rights, but it comes into market conflict with practicalities and the realities of life."[5] After years of debate over health concerns,[6][7] Congressional action in 1987 led to a ban on inflight smoking.[8][9][10][11]

The U.S. ban on inflight smoking began with domestic flights of two hours or less in April 1988,[12][13][14] extended to domestic flights of six hours or less in February 1990,[15][16][17] and to all domestic and international flights in 2000.[18][19][20] The 1990 ban applied only to the passengers and the cabin of the aircraft and not the flight deck. Pilots were allowed to continue smoking after the 1990 ban due to concerns over potential flight safety issues caused by nicotine withdrawal in chronic smokers.[21]

Normally, passengers found to be smoking on non-smoking flights will at least face a fine (up to $5,000) and at worst be arrested and detained upon landing. Due to stringent security measures, this often causes disruption such as having to land the flight early in order to escort the smoker from the plane.

Such regulations have on occasion met with defiance; in 2010 a Qatari diplomat was arrested upon arrival at Denver International Airport for smoking in the onboard lavatory on United Airlines Flight 663 and for making threats; when confronted by airline staff, he jokingly suggested that he was attempting to set his shoes on fire.[22] In the U.K. in 2007, singer Amy Winehouse spent approximately half of her hour-long flight to Glasgow smoking in the toilet; despite passenger complaints and an announcement over the public address, no action was taken against her.[23] On February 3, 2013, a family of four were accused of smoking during a Sunwing Airlines flight from Halifax to the Dominican Republic. They caused the flight to make an emergency landing at Bermuda L.F. Wade International Airport. The two eldest of the family were arrested by Bermuda Police Service and subsequently sentenced to a $500 fine or 10 days in prison.[24][25]

Due to the ubiquitous prohibition of in-flight smoking and the increasingly widespread use of electronic devices, the illuminated no-smoking signs have sometimes been re-purposed to inform passengers to switch devices off for take-off and landing. Where this is the case, the no-smoking sign is permanently printed on the overhead panels.

See also


  1. Smokefree Transportation Chronology
  2. "14 CFR 252 - Smoking Abort Aircraft". (United States): Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  4. 1 2 Brandt, Allan M.: The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America, p. 303-304. Basic Books, 2007
  5. "CAB flip-flops on smoking policy". Tuscaloosa News. Alabama. (Washington Post). June 1, 1984. p. 10.
  6. "CAB votes to ban pipe, cigar smokers". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. November 23, 1977. p. 2.
  7. "Should smoking be banned on planes?". Nashua Telegraph. New Hampshire. Associated Press. May 15, 1981. p. 28.
  8. "The House: Smoking Ban". Los Angeles Times. July 26, 1987. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  9. "Senator seeks smoking ban on flights under two hours". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. Associated Press. September 30, 1987. p. 6D.
  10. Fram, Alan (October 1, 1987). "Airline smoking restrictions approved by Senate panel". Gainesville Sun. Florida. Associated Press. p. 5A.
  11. Jehl, Douglas (October 30, 1987). "Senate acts to ban smoking on 70% of airline flights". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  12. Kramon, Glenn (April 17, 1988). "Smoking ban near on flights in U.S.". New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  13. "Northwest bans smoking on domestic flights". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. staff and wire reports. March 24, 1988. p. A1.
  14. "Airlines brace as smoking ban takes effect today". Schenectady Gazette. New York. Associated Press. April 23, 1988. p. 1.
  15. Fram, Alan (September 15, 1989). "Senate okays smoking ban". Prescott Courier-Journal. Arizona. Associated Press. p. 3A.
  16. "Bush restricts smoking on airlines". Lodi News-Sentinel. California. UPI. November 22, 1989. p. 12.
  17. Clarke, Jay (Feb 18, 1990). "Airlines go beyond federal smoking ban". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Knight News Service. p. D7.
  18. Johnson, Glen (July 28, 1998). "Proposed smoking ban draws fire from foreign airlines...". Kingman Daily Miner. Arizona. Associated Press. p. 4.
  19. "Smoking banned on all US flights". Manila Standard. Associated Press. June 4, 2000. p. A8.
  20. "Smoking banned on flights". The Item. Sumter, South Carolina. Associated Press. June 4, 2000. p. 2A.
  21. Mydans, Seth (March 19, 1990). "Ban on smoking in airliners doesn't apply to the cockpit". New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  22. Meikle, James (April 8, 2010). "Qatari diplomat 'smoking' causes US plane scare". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  23. "Amy Winehouse caught lighting-up on-board plane". Daily Mail. London. November 17, 2007. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  24. "Family of smokers on airplane forces costly diversion". (Canada): CBC News. February 3, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  25. "Unruly Sunwing passengers sentenced in Bermuda court". (Canada): CBC News. February 4, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
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