Why are there always no smoking signs on the plans?
There are a number of reasons why there are still no smoking signs on passenger planes. These include the fact that it is a legal requirement, that it deters people from lighting up and that there are still millions of people who travel by plane for the first time every year and who are not always aware of smoking restrictions.
Smoking on commercial passenger jets
Since smoking on planes has been banned for a long time, it is quite reasonable to wonder why there are still no smoking signs and ashtrays on planes. It’s not necessarily obvious, but there are a number of reasons why they’re still around. These include the following reasons:
Until fairly recently, European and American planes were required to have an illuminated “no smoking” sign visible to all passengers. The lifespan of commercial aircraft can span twenty years. Even though some newer planes have had their no smoking sign replaced with “turn off electronics”, the vast majority of planes still have a no smoking sign installed. However, even when not required, most new commercial aircraft are still equipped with a no smoking sign for the reasons below.
One of the worst emergencies that can happen on board an airliner is a fire in the cabin and smoking can be a serious fire threat. Just having a no smoking sign visible to all can be enough to keep a passenger from lighting up.
Although you are a regular traveler, people all over the world may have never set foot on an airplane or are traveling on an airplane for the very first time. The no smoking sign reminds those unfamiliar with air travel that smoking is prohibited on board.
In some cultures, smoking in confined spaces is much more prevalent 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 is prohibited on board an aircraft is considered good practice.
VIP / Private Operations
Smoking is permitted on board a privately operated jet, but smoking will be prohibited at certain times during the flight or ground operation (such as when refueling). 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 cannot smoke.
Why are there still ashtrays on planes?
Aircraft still have ashtrays in the lavatories and very old aircraft may even have ashtrays in the armrest of each seat. The FAA (the US aviation regulator) requires that ashtrays be installed in every lavatory in case a passenger breaks the rules and lights a cigarette in the lavatory. If so, having an ashtray provides a place to safely dispose of the cigarette rather than putting it in the trash can, which is full of combustible materials like paper towels and could potentially start a fire.
EASA (the European regulator) has proposed that ashtrays be not anymore be mandatory in aircraft lavatories. This is based on the fact that it is now widely known and accepted that smoking on airplanes is not allowed while on the other hand having a visible ashtray might even suggest that smoking in the toilet is okay.
Smoking on a passenger flight in the Western world is prohibited by law. If caught smoking, the passenger can be heavily fined (up to $25,000 in the US) and banned from future travel by the airline.