Dick Durbin Touts 25th Anniversary of Airplane Smoking Ban

By Niels Lesniewski
Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:30pm
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Everyone who flies on a commercial airliner has heard the announcement that tampering with an airplane’s lavatory smoke detector is a federal offense. But as Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin reminded the Senate, until 25 years ago today it was legal to light up cigarettes on short-haul flights. As a House member, the Illinois Democrat had championed the ban, joining with the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., on an effort that earned plaudits in no shortage of Lautenberg obituaries. “My staff thought I was crazy,” Durbin said of the effort. “No one had ever beaten the tobacco lobby at anything.” But when it came to smoking on airplanes, Durbin, Lautenberg and their supporters ultimately prevailed, as of 25 years ago today, and as Durbin said on the floor it was the first of many prohibitions on smoking indoors or in confined spaces that have taken place since then.