Ashtrays On Planes: Why Are They Still There?

Open Jaw

It's been about 25 years since smoking was banned on passenger planes, but there's still a reminder of what now seems like a bizarre practice. Ashtrays.

Many visitors to airplane bathrooms are likely to wonder: “Why is that ashtray still there?" The answer: because it's the law.

Even though smoking on U.S. aircraft was banned in 1990, FAA regulations still require all passenger-carrying aircraft to provide ashtrays.

Here's how the administrator describes the rationale: “Regardless of whether smoking is allowed in any other part of the airplane, lavatories must have self-contained, removable ashtrays located conspicuously on or near the entry side of each lavatory door, except that one ashtray may serve more than one lavatory door if the ashtray can be seen readily from the cabin side of each lavatory served."

It seems that the FAA expects the occasional nicotine addict to break the law, so it believes there should be a place for them to safely extinguish their contraband cigarettes.

And they're right – it still happens. This year, there have been a couple of high-profile incidents involving mid-flight smokers, including the ranting college professor who lit up at her seat while other pax filmed her on their phones. She blamed a seatmate, but video revealed her guilt.

In another incident this year, an Alaska Airlines pax bit a cop who busted him for smoking before the plane even took off.

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