Ashtrays in airplane bathrooms

Brian wants to know why there are still ashtrays in airplane bathrooms. So, in Travel SOS, Leon answers his unusual yet perfectly valid question about this strange plane feature.

Q. Brian
I saw that question asked last week about the holes in airplane windows and I have a weird one of my own. Why, when smoking has been banned for years, do planes still have ashtrays?

A. It’s been so long since passengers could smoke on planes that each time I board one and see ashtrays in the armrest or in the bathroom I think I must be flying in an antique.

But even planes built since the international ban on smoking during a flight still have ashtrays.


Well, it’s still part of airline safety regulations. Many federal and international jurisdictions require ashtrays on planes for those indignant travellers who still try to sneak a cigarette on a flight.

Only recently, a passenger was jailed for nine months for lighting up on a flight.

You may not see ashtrays in the armrests of more modern planes, or plane that have been retrofitted, but you will see them in the toilet.

airplane bathroom

That’s because when smokers do choose to break the rules, they’ll most likely do it in the bathroom. When they’re done smoking, they need a place to put out their cigarette.

The ashtrays in the airplane bathroom are there to stop smokers from putting their cigarette out in the bin, which is typically filled with paper towels and other flammable debris.

According to one aviation regulator: “Regardless of whether smoking is allowed in any other part of the aeroplane, lavatories must have self-contained, removable ashtrays located conspicuously on or near the entry side of each lavatory door”.

They’re so important that some airlines won’t take off if the ashtrays are missing or don’t work properly.

You’ll probably notice that the no-smoking signs are always illuminated too. Which may be a safety regulation, but I question the wisdom of reminding smokers that they can’t smoke. Is it the best way to help them beat inflight cravings? Just a thought …

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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