Why are there Still ‘No Smoking’ Signs on Planes?

Why are there Still No Smoking Signs on Planes?

No smoking signs and ashtrays – why are they still there?

Why are there Still No Smoking Signs on Planes?

There are a number of reasons for still having no smoking signs on passenger aircraft. These include the fact it is a legal requirement, it deters people from lighting up and there are still millions of people travelling by air for the first time every year that aren’t always aware of the smoking restrictions.

Smoking on Commercial Passengers Jets

With smoking on planes having been banned for a long time, it’s quite reasonable to ask why there are still no smoking signs and ashtrays on planes. It’s not necessarily obvious, but there are a number of reasons as to why they are still there. These include the following reasons:

Older Aircraft

Up until fairly recently, European and US aircraft were mandated to have an illuminated ‘no smoking’ sign visible to all passengers. The life span of commercial aircraft can extend over twenty years so even though some newer planes have had their no smoking sign replaced with ‘turn off electronic devices’, the vast majority of aircraft still have a no smoking sign installed. However, even when not mandated, most new commercial aircraft are still fitted with a no smoking sign for the reasons below.

Fire Risk

One of the worst emergencies that can occur on a passenger jet is a fire in the cabin and smoking can be serious fire threat. Simply having a no smoking sign visible to everyone can be enough to stop a passenger lighting up.

New Travellers

Whilst you might be a regular traveller, may people across the world still haven’t ever stepped foot on an aircraft or are travelling on a plane for the very first time. The no smoking sign serves as a reminder for those unfamiliar with air travel that you can’t smoke onboard.


In some cultures, smoking in confined spaces is much more widespread and socially acceptable than others. An aircraft could theoretically be required to operate to any country in the world and therefore a reminder that smoking onboard an aircraft is prohibited is considered good practice.

VIP / Private Operations

It is permitted to smoke on a jet that is being operated privately, but smoking will be prohibited at certain points during the flight or ground operation (such as if refuelling). As large commercial jets can still be used for VIP and private operations, no smoking signs are required to inform the passenger when they can and can’t smoke.

Why are there still ashtrays on planes?

Aircraft still have ashtrays in the toilets and very old aircraft might even have them in the arm rest of each seat. The FAA (the US aviation regulator) requires ashtrays to be installed in each toilet in case a passenger breaks the rules and lights up a cigarette in the toilet. If they do, having an ashtray provides somewhere which allows the safe disposal of the cigarette rather than putting it in the bin, which is full of combustible materials like paper towels and could potentially start a fire.

EASA (the European regulator) have proposed that ashtrays should no longer be mandatory in the aircraft bathrooms. This is based on the fact that it is now widely known and accepted that smoking on aircraft is not allowed whilst on the other hand, having an ashtray visible might even suggest smoking in the toilet is acceptable.

The Penalties

Smoking on a passenger flight in the Western world is against the law. If caught smoking the passenger can be given a significant fine (up to $25,000 in the USA) and banned from future travel by the airline.