Celebrating 25 Years of Smokefree U.S. Flights, American Lung Association Calls for Comprehensive Smokefree Laws | American Lung Association

Celebrating 25 Years of Smokefree U.S. Flights, American Lung Association Calls for Comprehensive Smokefree Laws

Aggressive Push Continues to Eliminate Secondhand Smoke in Workplaces, Public Spaces, Housing

(February 23, 2015) - CHICAGO

Through the passage of groundbreaking legislation championed by the American Lung Association and our partners, U.S. airline passengers have been breathing smokefree air for the past 25 years. On February 25, the American Lung Association celebrates this historic protection for airline passengers and flight attendants from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, and calls to extend these protections to the American public where they live, work and gather.

"We are very proud of the role the American Lung Association played in making smokefree skies a reality 25 years ago, and today we're still aggressively fighting to protect Americans from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer.

On February 25, 1990, the law making all domestic flights of six hours or less smokefree went into effect. The measure championed by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and then-Representative Richard Durbin (D-IL) covered 99 percent of all flights in the United States. Over the next decade, many airlines made all their flights smokefree. In 2000, Congress passed a law to make all flights to and from the United States smokefree.

Smokefree skies paved the way for significant progress toward smokefree worksites in state and communities. Now 28 states and the District of Columbia enjoy comprehensive smokefree laws. Still, far too many states and communities do not have these protections.

The U.S. Surgeon General made clear there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It kills more than 41,000 nonsmokers every year, according to the Surgeon General's 2014 report The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. And in 2009, the Institute of Medicine confirmed that exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant cause of heart attacks among nonsmokers, and an even relatively brief exposure could trigger a heart attack.

 "Now, that we know so much more about the health effects of secondhand smoke, we need to continue the charge to protect children, families and workers from the hazardous, and even lethal effects of secondhand smoke," said Wimmer. "No level of secondhand smoke exposure is safe. And today, we call on all communities and states to pass comprehensive smokefree laws."

The American Lung Association is committed to eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, including in workplaces, public areas and multi-unit housing. Through our Smokefree Air Challenge, the American Lung Association has called on all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws prohibiting smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Currently, only 28 states and the District of Columbia have met the Smokefree Air Challenge.

"More needs to be done as one in four nonsmokers continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke, including two in five young children," Wimmer said. "No one should ever breathe secondhand smoke, and workers should not have to be exposed to secondhand smoke simply to earn a paycheck."

Learn how you can join our fight to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease at Lung.org/smokefree.

Ask An Expert

Questions about your lung health? Need help finding healthcare? Call 1-800-LUNGUSA.

Get help
We need your generous support

Make a difference by delivering research, education and advocacy to those impacted by lung disease.


LUNG FORCE unites women and their loved ones across the country to stand together in the fight against lung cancer.

Get involved
Join the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.
Donate Now.