Smokefree Skies Anniversary

On February 25, 1990, the “no-smoking” sign was permanently lit on U.S. domestic airline flights. Thanks to the hard work of flight attendants, ANR members, health supporters, and key lawmakers, U.S. airline employees and passengers have been breathing smokefree air for the past 25 years. This effort was preceded by a CA law sponsored by then Senator Nicholas (Nick) Petris. The law was the first to eliminate smoking on all forms of transit in the state of CA including airplanes, trains, and buses. To learn more about these historic events, read our Flying the Smokefree Skies Milestones or the more detailed Smokefree Transportation Chronology.

ANR presented CA Senator Petris with its Smokefree Hero Award for his sponsorship of the landmark smokefree transportation legislation.


Former flight attendants describe the horror of working on smoke-filled airplanes in the two video clips below. Some of the video clips may take a while to download, but the powerful message they contain is worth the wait.

Danger is in the Air: The Kathie Cheney Story (Running time: 9:22)
In this compelling video produced by the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, former flight attendant Kathie Cheney describes her experience on smoke-filled flights, her diagnosis with "smokers' throat" and subsequent surgery. Also, former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan, MD describes the negative health effects of secondhand smoke.

Windows Media High Resolution (17MB)
Windows Media Low Resolution (6 MB)

Patty Young Video Clip (Running time: 3:23)
Patty Young, former flight attendant, describes what it is like to work in a smoke-filled airplane in this video clip from the late 1980's during the fight for smokefree skies. (Clip provided by The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society).

Window Media High Resolution (8 MB),
Windows Media Player Low Resolution (6 MB),

Remember the way it was?

Remember having a row of seats separating the smoking section from the nonsmoking section in-flight? Remember the sick flight attendants, the wafting smoke, asthma attacks and dirty ashtrays? Remember the vicious tobacco industry campaign to prevent and to repeal the smokefree airlines law?


Opponents said smokefree flights would never happen. Well, they did, and smokefree skies have been a historic success for public health and for the smokefree movement.

One mark of the success is that most people now take smokefree flights for granted, forgetting what a difficult, controversial fight this was for public health.





In the 1980s, ANR staff Mark Pertschuk and Julia Carol met with Norman Mineta to discuss proposals for smokefree airline flights. Mr. Mineta was then the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Aviation and is now the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Some images courtesy of the University of Alabama, Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.

Big Tobacco Fights Smokefree Skies

In 1988, the Tobacco Institute's "Smokers' Rights Alliance" launched a letter writing campaign to Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration, in an effort to block the adoption of smokefree flight policies.

The campaign failed.



Here is a draft of an advertisement that RJ Reynolds ran against Northwest Airlines after the airline went voluntarily smokefree.




Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of ANR, presented Senators Richard Durbin and Frank Lautenberg (not shown) with ANR's Smokefree Hero Award for their pioneering efforts and leadership in support of smokefree airlines legislation. (May 4, 2005)







Patty Young (former flight attendant and leader in the smokefree skies movement with ANR), Elizabeth Kress (Executive Director of the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute), Cynthia Hallett (Executive Director of ANR), and Mark Pertschuk (President of ANR Board of Directors) at ANR's 15th Anniversary of Smokefree Skies event in Chicago, IL, May 5, 2005.