Travel & Day Trips

When Was Smoking Banned in Planes?

Air travel has evolved significantly over the years. One of the changes that has had a huge impact on the passenger experience is the ban on smoking in planes. In this article, we will take a look at when smoking was banned on flights, and the reasons behind this decision.

The History of Smoking on Planes

In the early days of commercial aviation, smoking was not only allowed but was also promoted as a way to relax during the flight.

Believe it or not, many early airplanes even had smoking lounges, where passengers could retreat with a cigarette and a scotch. Sometimes, passengers reportedly threw their smoldering cigarettes out the windows.

Public domain image of person smoking on plane

However, by the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was growing awareness about the health risks associated with smoking and secondhand smoke, as well as the fire risks of smoking in a plane while in flight.

Public perceptions of smoking started to change.

The Implementation of Smoking Bans

Here’s some data on when each major country banned smoking on flights, based on our research:

CountrySmoking Ban on Domestic FlightsSmoking Ban on International Flights
United States1988 (flights < 2 hours), 1990 (flights < 6 hours), 2000 (all flights)2000
Canada1990 (all flights)1994 (flights operated by Canadian carriers)
Australia1987 (all flights)1990 (within Australian airspace), 1996 (all Australian international flights)
Japan1988 (flights < 1 hour), 1990 (flights < 2 hours), 1998 (all flights)1999 (all flights)
Turkey1986 (all domestic flights and international flights < 6 hours), 1999 (all flights)1999 (all flights)
Nordic Countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark)1988 (Sweden & Norway), 1989 (Denmark & flights between Nordic countries)1997 (SAS, the flag carrier of Nordic countries, banned smoking on all flights)
European Union1997 (all flights in member states)1997 (all flights in member states)
France2000 (all flights by Air France)2000 (all flights by Air France)
China1983 (passengers only), 2019 (total ban including cockpit)1993 (passengers only), 2019 (total ban including cockpit)
Cuba2014 (all international flights by Cubana)

United States

The First Step: Partial Ban

In the U.S., the first step towards a smoking ban on planes came in 1988. The U.S. government banned smoking on domestic flights of two hours or less.

Extending the Ban

This was followed by the extension of the ban to domestic flights of six hours or less in 1990. Eventually, in 2000, smoking was banned on all flights between the United States and foreign destinations.

One of the reasons, according to reporting at the time by the Los Angeles Times, was that a partial ban might cause passengers to smoke in the airplane lavatory, which had resulted in several fires.

Europe and Beyond

In Europe, most countries began implementing similar bans in the early 1990s. By the early 2000s, smoking was banned on the majority of flights within and between European countries.

Reasons Behind the Ban

Health Concerns

One of the main reasons for the ban was the growing awareness of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke. The confined space inside an airplane made non-smokers especially vulnerable. The risks especially increased as airlines crammed more and more passengers into each row.

Safety Concerns

There were also safety concerns related to smoking on planes. Cigarettes pose a fire hazard, and there have been incidents in the past where smoking was implicated in in-flight fires.

Cabin Maintenance

Smoking inside the cabin led to additional maintenance costs for airlines. The smoke left residues that could damage the airplane’s interior and required more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

The Impact of the Smoking Ban

Passengers have reported a more pleasant flying experience since the smoking ban. The air inside the cabin is cleaner, and there are fewer health risks associated with flying. The ban also reduced maintenance costs for airlines and improved safety.

Although smoking on planes is now banned, planes still need to have ashtrays in the lavatory. Why? In case someone violates the ban, they still need a safe place to dispose of a cigarette without starting a fire.

In Conclusion

The ban on smoking in planes was implemented gradually, starting in the late 1980s in the United States and spreading worldwide by the early 2000s. This decision was driven by health, safety, and maintenance concerns and has led to a significantly improved experience for air travelers.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button