Have you ever wondered why there’s a no smoking indicator on airplanes at each seat and in the lavatories? It seems like common sense that you wouldn’t smoke on a flight; however, it wasn’t illegal until a few decades ago! Before then, you could light up on a flight without a worry.

When politicians and activists first started talking about banning smoking, tobacco companies predicted revolt. They thought that passengers wouldn’t want to fly without smoking. Now, we can’t imagine a world where you could smoke on a plane.

So, when did airlines finally ban in-flight smoking, and how did it come about? The answer varies from country to country, so here’s an overview of how and when the smoking ban on airlines came into play. While they initially only applied to cigarettes, these laws were quickly adapted to include electronic cigarettes in their bans.

US In-flight Smoking Ban

For decades, health groups, legislators, and activists lobbied to ban smoking on flights in the United States. Most flight attendants fought for their rights to breathe clean air and avoid exposure to harmful secondhand smoke.

As early as 1971, there were nonsmoking sections of the plane, though it wouldn’t be until February 1990 that a regulation was finally passed to ban smoking on U.S. flights.


Air Canada first started the no smoking policy on its planes in 1990, but it wouldn’t be until 1994 that Canada banned smoking on flights operated by Canadian air carriers. It was the first country to do so, though it did not apply to foreign flights flying to Canada.


Japan Airlines was the first airline to ban smoking on domestic flights of less than one hour in 1988. It expanded its initial ban to flights up to two hours in 1990. By 1998, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines expanded the ban to all domestic flights, though it wasn’t until 1999 that Japanese airlines extended the ban to all international flights. They were among the last airlines to do so.


Turkey first started the ban in 1986 when they restricted smoking on all domestic and international flights that lasted less than six hours, though they didn’t extend to all flights until 1999. Sweden and Norway were soon to follow, which was soon expanded to Denmark and all Nordic countries in 1989. By 1997, the European Union had banned smoking on all flights taking place in member states.


Australia banned smoking on domestic flights in 1987, international flights in Australian airspace in 1990, and all international flights by 1996. They joined the US and Canada in banning smoking on flights between the three countries in 1995.

Can I use Electronic Cigarettes?

With the advent of electronic cigarettes, lawmakers were quick to include these in smoking bans to protect the health and well-being of other passengers are workers. You cannot use them on the flight or check them in your luggage. This is because there is a fire risk because of the batteries.

What Happens if I Get Caught Smoking?

If caught smoking on a flight, you could be subject to a fine and jail time, depending on local and airline regulations. You may cause the flight to divert and do an emergency landing because the conditions on the plane are no longer safe.

Smoking on a plane can be dangerous, causing fires and decreased oxygen levels in the aircraft. Now that it’s illegal and has been for quite some time, you can face serious consequences for your actions, so listen to that ever-present no-smoking sign at your seat. No drag is worth risking your safety and well-being over!