In-flight smoking bans were first launched in the late 1970s because governments and airlines became increasingly aware of the dangers of in-flight smoking.

Prior to the 1970s, in-flight smoking was both legal and widespread.

In-flight smoking is banned because it’s considered dangerous for the plane itself and other passengers.

Passengers who don’t smoke are still affected by passive smoke, and smoking can also potentially cause fires in the aircraft.

Despite the general ban on in-flight smoking on commercial flights, several private charter jet companies allow passengers to smoke on-board.

A Timeline of Smoking Bans on Planes

Most planes had non-smoking sections at the front and back of airplanes until the 1970s.

Outright bans on in-flight smoking first began in the 1980s, but these bans began with individual restrictions before in-flight smoking was fully banned in 2000 for domestic and international flights in the United States.

In-flight smoking bans were also implemented in the rest of the world at the same time. 

In-Flight Smoking Ban in the USA

The US fully banned in-flight smoking in 2000.

The smoking ban was implemented after an incident in 1997 when Dr Abid Hanson died due to a severe asthma attack from inhaling second-hand smoke on a flight.

In 2015, the US implemented new rules that restricted the use and carry of electronic cigarettes on flights in both carry on and checked luggage.

In-Flight Smoking Ban in Europe

The first European airline to ban in-flight smoking was Turkish Airlines in 1986, which prohibited in-flight smoking for flights shorter than 6 hours.

In 1999, Turkish Airlines completely banned in-flight smoking.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) banned in-flight smoking for domestic flights in Sweden and Norway in 1997. 

This ban was later extended to all flights in 1997.

The European Union also banned in-flight smoking among all member states in 1997.

In-Flight Smoking Ban in the UK 

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

Other Countries Banned Smoking Sooner Than the U.S.

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

Australia first banned in-flight smoking on domestic flights in 1987, and then extended the ban to international flights in 1996.

Other countries, like China and Cuba, banned in-flight smoking more recently, with Cuba banning in-flight smoking in 2014, while China did so in 2017. 

Why Smoking is Banned on Planes

People began moving away from smoking after researchers increasingly discovered the harmful effects of smoking over time.

Once the negative effects of smoking were better understood, governments and airlines began taking action against in-flight smoking.

Specifically, governments and airlines decided to ban in-flight smoking because of passive smoking. 

Passive smoking has multiple long-term health hazards, including respiratory problems.

As such, passengers suffered from the effects of passive smoking because of sitting in the same cabins as passengers who smoked.

Many airlines also justified the in-flight smoking ban out of concern that smoking reduced oxygen supplies in flight.

Lastly, airlines were concerned with fires being caused by smoking. Onboard fire could potentially cause severe damages to aircraft. 

No Airlines Still Allow Smoking Onboard

Today, there are no airlines that still allow smoking onboard, though there have been reports that on some flights in China and Iran, smoking has been seen.

In the USA, the Federal Aviation Authority prohibits all US airlines from allowing onboard smoking, so no U.S. airlines allow smoking onboard.

Most other countries follow similar laws and have banned onboard smoking among all their airlines.

Even if an airline officially allows smoking on board an aircraft, most countries’ airspaces ban in-flight smoking. So, even if an individual airline allowed in-flight smoking, you still probably couldn’t smoke during your flight.

For example, in-flight smoking is banned in Australian airspace.

So even if you flew with an airline that didn’t ban in-flight smoking, you still couldn’t smoke onboard because it’s banned in Australian airspace. 

No Exceptions When Flying First Class

Regardless if you are flying first class or not, the smoking ban still applies.

The smoke ban applies to first class passengers, since the dangers of passive smoking and the potential fire hazard associated with smoking are also present in first-class cabins. 

You Might Be Able to Smoke on a Private Jet

There are no laws that ban smoking on private jets.

But, it’s possible for private charter companies to have their own restrictions against in-flight smoking.

So, there are some private charter companies that fully permit passengers to smoke tobacco while others fully ban in-flight smoking on their private jets, too.

Smokers Can Receive a Fine or Jail Time

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.

However, 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.

You Can Bring Cigarettes on a Plane Though

According to TSA regulations, you can bring cigarettes on a plane in both your carry on and checked bags, with no quantity limit if you are flying domestically, though restrictions apply if you are flying internationally.

When flying to the U.S. from an international destination, you can bring up to 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars.

Make Sure You Don’t Vape on a Plane Either

You cannot use E-cigarettes on a plane during taxi, takeoff or landing – i.e. at any time on the plane.

E-cigarettes are specifically banned because they generate heat that could potentially cause fires on the plane. In fact, E-cigarettes are more likely to cause onboard fires than regular cigarettes.

You may have noticed that many airlines specifically announce that e-cigarettes are banned during the flight.

In conclusion:

  • In-flight smoking was allowed and common before the 1970s.
  • In-flight smoking was banned after governments and airlines fully realized how much harm smoking onboard a plane causes.
  • The two major problems with in-flight smoking are passive smoking and the threat of causing fires.
  • In-flight smoking bans are enforced by both countries and airlines, so you can’t smoke in an airspace where it’s banned even if the airline allows it.
  • Only some private charter jet companies allow in-flight smoking.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).