Smoking is far less common than it used to be, with an estimated 12.5% of adults in the U.S. smoking cigarettes, though the numbers can be far higher in many other countries around the world.

So, with smoking still being somewhat ubiquitous, you might be wondering what happens if you smoke on a plane, as it must have happened before.

If you’re caught smoking on a plane, what will happen depends on how compliant you are when caught and if you have tampered with the aircraft in any other way in an attempt to not get caught smoking.

What Happens If You Smoke on a Plane?

Depending on the origin and destination of the flight, if someone is caught smoking on a plane, the penalties could either result in a fine or an arrest and jail time.

Fines

In the U.S., if you’re caught smoking on a plane, the most likely result is a fine that can range from $2 to $4,000.

Of all the fines the FAA issues, only 10% are due to in-flight smoking.

Arrests

In the U.S., by itself, smoking on a plane is not an arrestable offense – you will just receive a fine.

But if you are found to have tampered with a smoke detector, or failed to comply with a crew member’s instruction to stop smoking, you can be arrested.

It’s even possible for a flight to be diverted and for an emergency landing to be made due to someone smoking on a plane, which will definitely have legal ramifications.

What About Vaping on a Plane?

Regardless if you smoke or vape on a plane, the penalties are the same.

So, anyone who vapes on a plane will most likely face a fine unless they fail to comply with a crew member’s instructions to stop, or have tampered with the aircraft in some way, such as trying to disable the smoke detector.

Today, No Airlines Allow You to Smoke

There are no airlines that currently allow passengers to smoke on a plane, though there have been reports that on some flights in China and Iran, smoking has been seen.

Smoking on a commercial plane is firmly in the past, and we can say with confidence that it will never be seen again.

Smoking Was First Banned on Planes in the 1970s

Smoking was first banned on planes in the late 1970s, but was only fully banned in 2000 for domestic and international flights in the United States.

Smoking was banned on planes due to the harmful effects of passive smoking and the concern that smoking in-flight could cause fires.

USA

Smoking was completely banned on planes in the U.S. in 2000, after Dr Abid Hanson died due to a severe asthma attack from inhaling second-hand smoke on a flight.

Europe

Turkish Airlines was the first airline to ban smoking in-flight, though this was only on flights that were shorter than 6 hours.

In 1997, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) banned in-flight smoking for domestic flights in Sweden and Norway, which was later extended to all flights.

In-flight smoking was banned among all European Union member states in 1997.

UK

The UK banned in-flight smoking in 1997 along with other European countries like Germany and France. 

Worldwide

Most other countries banned in-flight smoking in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Some countries have only banned in-flight smoking relatively recently, with Cuba banning smoking on a plane in 2014, and China in 2017.

No Exceptions For Smoking in First Class

Buying a first class ticket has many benefits, but this doesn’t include being able to smoke.

Regardless if you’re sitting in economy, premium economy, business, or first class, smoking is not allowed under any circumstances.

Pilots Can’t Smoke in the Cockpit

Either through national, industry, or airline regulations, smoking is banned on planes – and this applies to both passengers and the cabin crew, including pilots.

So, pilots aren’t allowed to smoke in the cockpit on commercial airliners, though some pilots will ignore the ban depending on the country.

Passengers in first class have reported that they could smell tobacco smoke coming from the cockpit when flying with Asian carriers.

Related: Why is a Cockpit Called a Cockpit?

You Might Be Able to Smoke on a Private Jet

There are no laws that ban smoking on private jets, though private jet charter companies have their own rules as to whether smoking is allowed on their planes or not.

You Can Bring a Lighter and Matches on a Plane

The TSA state that you can bring a lighter on a plane.

You can pack both disposable and Zippo lighters in your carry on bags.Torch lighters are not allowed.

You are allowed to bring a single box of safety matches on a plane in your carry on bags only.

You Can Bring a Limited Number of Cigarettes on a Plane

You can bring cigarettes on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags, with most countries permitting passengers to bring up to 200 cigarettes.

You Can Also Bring Cigars

You can bring cigars on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags.

If you are flying domestically within the U.S., there is no limit to how many cigars you can bring on a plane.

If returning to the USA, you are allowed to bring back a maximum of 100 cigars, though are not allowed to bring back any Cuban cigars, regardless of where they were purchased.

Some Airlines Will Let You Dip

Chewing tobacco is allowed on a plane, but whether you can dip or not depends on the airline.

In the U.S., most airlines prohibit the use of chewing tobacco onboard, except for JetBlue and Southwest.

Don’t Even Think About Bringing Weed

As weed is illegal on a federal level and planes and airports are under federal jurisdiction, you cannot bring weed on a plane.

This is even if you have a medical marijuana card or are flying between two states where weed is legal.

Robert is an expert in commercial air travel with decades of experience in the travel industry, and has spent countless hours in airports and on planes for work.
Robert therefore has an unrivaled understanding of everything related to commercial air travel, and has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, such as Insider, Trip Savvy, ZDNet, and Bored Panda, showcasing his extensive knowledge and expertise in the field.