The war on drugs may be a war every nation is willing to participate in, but the war on nicotine is one that everyone refuses to fight. If the ominous cancer-stricken lungs on the cover of every pack is not enough to dissuade smokers, then very little is. And the consensus shares the concern; which is why, in spite of the fact that smoking on a plane is strictly prohibited, the Federal Aviation Administration still feels the necessity to provide for ashtrays on aeroplanes.
Sure, smoking on private jets is a personal call. If anyone feels the dire need to join the mile-high club and has chartered a million-dollar flight for the entitlement, then more power to them. Smoking on an airplane is a concept that even the most rebellious boarder will agree against. However, the airport authorities do not leave that to the discretion of the folks on the flight.
In spite of the warnings splashed all over the pristine white surfaces, in danger-red, airport officials have confessed that there have been instances where passengers smoked in-flight. The attendants - bless them for their thankless rigorous routine that most seem to mock at and take for granted - can only do so much to prevent an incident where a flame is lit in a vehicle in flight. Hence, even though there is a nary cigarette in sight, there are ashtrays on planes.
Read along to find out why…
Usually, airports have robust smoking zones, complete with choked-with-ash bins and matches and couches and newspapers to go with the clove scented carcinogen that is more of an addiction for many. However, in a bid to discourage smoking altogether, some airports like Frankfurt and Amsterdam have not bothered to install a smoking zone altogether.
Some folks try to make do with nicotine gum or patches. But as most chain-smokers would agree, compared to the real deal faced with a Transatlantic flight, the placebos just do not cut it. However, they still bear less of a flight-risk than those who sneak past a pack of Marlboros and a solitary book of matches past the airport security!
Some folks have been known to sneak in their e-cigarette and vape equipment. Given that vape pens are still mostly associated with smoking the funny-stuff, e-cigarettes are the more popular choice. E-cigarettes do not raise as much a frown with the airport security if caught, and neither are a flame-risk. However, most of the flights still warn against its usage in-flight as a precautionary measure.
The Federal Aviation Administration does not believe in letting things be left to chance. As fate would have it, 123 unfortunate souls passed away in a 1973 plane crash, which was the result of a fire breaking out from a tossed cigarette-butt in the bathroom bin. It was the Varig Flight 820 which was bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro.
The FAA-s counterparts across the globe agree that in spite of the stern policies, there are nicotine addicts who would rather risk the lives of every passenger on board to scratch their nicotine itch. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India has gone as far as to ban e-cigarettes as well, just in case a mishap planned to strike.
However, all of these bodies have still made it mandatory to label ashtrays as a minimum requirement for any vehicle which is supposed to take flight. The maintenance of these ashtrays is equally stressed upon by most air-safety bodies. The Code of Federal Regulations for airworthiness makes it mandatory that regardless of whether smoking is allowed on a plane or its vicinity, every aircraft must be provided with a replaceable ashtray unit.
It is also made stringent that these ashtrays be provided for each lavatory door on an aircraft and can only be shared with the cabin if it is conspicuous from the cabin. Introducing high-fare business flights for corporate bigwigs who would pay extra for the luxury of not kicking the habit on air, was an idea introduced by Smoker's International Airline, but funding fell through for the proposition for obvious reasons.
Airport authorities have trust issues and rightly so when it comes to having faith in their passengers' will power to not smoke. Which is why grounding of a flight for not having adequate ashtray equipment should not come as a surprising news.
Indeed, the British Airways had once been forced to delay a flight, as recent as 2009, because the aircraft did not have adequate cigarette extinguishing equipment. Prevention is always better than cure!
The safety markers may be on and blinking throughout the flight, and maybe a nuisance to wise-acres everywhere. But it is commendable that the airport's authorities across the globe are not complacent about the nature of man. The awareness of a smoker's reverse psychology is what made the existence of cigarette ashtrays on flights a common sight. And it should remain so because you never know when someone might get the urge to light one. To this effect, ashtrays on airplanes are more effective than referees in a professional wrestling match!