Travel SOS: why are there still ashtrays in airplanes?

Brian wants to know why there are still ashtrays in airplanes.

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 …



    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Aug 2017
    ???????? Is it Friday? Must have been a 'what do we print' day!
    The toilets have a NO CIGARETTES sign. Nothing to do with 'smoking'. Just telling people who might want to exercise their universal rights that it is a no go.
    So where's wally
    12th Aug 2017
    maybe they cater for the international smoker convention ???
    12th Aug 2017
    I am an ex smoker. But I always thought it was great when flying, sit back have a beer have a smoke and calm your nerves. Remember the days when you could smoke anywhere, shops, cinemas, restaurants, pubs, the beach. Now people are not even allowed to smoke in there own houses.
    The Bronze Anzac
    12th Aug 2017
    And for their own & everyone elses good health too.
    12th Aug 2017
    A lot more chemicals in cigarettes these days, toxic to everyone, why should other's have to breath in the toxic air. (Yes I am an ex-smoker over 10 years quit, aren't we the worst!)

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