If you have ever wondered why planes still have ashtrays in toilets when smoking is banned, there’s a reason.
Australia was one of the first countries to ban smoking on flights back in 1987, followed by the US in 1988 and Europe eventually making the change in 1997.
However, there are still ashtrays built into the doors of plane toilets with a red sign that reads: “No smoking in lavatory.”
And despite the act having been banned from the skies for decades in most countries, new aircraft are still being produced with ashtrays.
Why? The reason is simple.
“Because, in case someone doesn’t follow the rules, it’s a legal requirement to have a safe place to dispose of cigarettes on-board,” explains flight attendant Jessica in a video on TikTok.
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She joked in the comment: “Some people be like, ‘There’s an ashtray! It means I can smoke.’”
Another person in the comments backed the flight attendant, saying: “FA here! It is because people will try and break the rules.
“We prefer that they use ashtrays to hide their cigarettes instead of causing a fire hazard by hiding it in a small corner.”
The little ashtrays are actually required by law in a number of federal jurisdictions.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration said: “[The] requirement for the presence of an ashtray on or near the lavatory door provides a convenient disposal location for cigarettes (or other smoking material) and thereby ensures that there is a place to dispose of such material in the event that the ‘no smoking’ policy is not adhered to.”
One of the catalysts for restricting and eventually banning altogether smoking from plane cabins came after a 1973 incident that saw 123 passengers killed when a cigarette was thrown in a toilet rubbish bin.
The incident on Varig Flight 820 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris caused a fire to break out, the cabin filling with smoke, and the pilot was forced to make a crash landing in a field 15km south of the French capital.
In the wake of the crash, bans were gradually introduced around the world, beginning with a US ban on smoking in aircraft toilets.
Australia was one of the first countries to totally outlaw smoking on all domestic flights in 1987 followed by international flights in 1996.
A 2013 report in The Australian revealed we could have been the first country to ban smoking on international flights, but then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke feared a smoke-free Qantas would be disadvantaged by foreign competitors that allowed its passengers to light up whenever they wanted.
However, despite virtually every flight in the world now being smoke-free, people do sometimes flaunt the rules.
In May 2017, British man John Cox was sentenced to nine years and six months in jail after he triggered the smoke alarm while disposing of a cigarette butt on a Monarch flight from Birmingham, UK, to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in 2015, The Guardian reported.
The captain issued a mayday call and the plane carrying more than 200 people was forced to make an emergency landing after cabin crew struggled to extinguished the blaze.