China airlines: Pilots, cabin crew banned from smoking in plane cockpits

Pilots and other cabin crew can no longer smoke in the cockpits of domestic flights in China.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued a notice this week to enforce the ban on in-flight smoking with immediate effect, the China Daily reported Friday. First-time violators, including those who smoke electronic cigarettes, will be suspended for 12 months and repeat offenders will be barred for 36 months. Airlines must carry out routine inspections, the regulator said.

China's government had outlawed in-flight smoking in October 2017, but individual airlines were given two more years before the cockpit ban was to take effect. The latest order, which scraps the extra time the carriers got, follows recent incidents that have triggered safety concerns.

In July, an Air China pilot mistakenly switched off the cabin air-conditioner, when he actually wanted to turn off a circulation fan to prevent smoke from reaching the cabin, causing the Boeing 737 aircraft to descend rapidly and oxygen masks to drop during a flight to Dalian from Hong Kong.

Cabin crew who fail to stop other members from smoking in the cockpit will also be suspended for six months, the regulator said. Penalties could be more severe should smoking result in serious consequences, it said.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation prohibited smoking on all international flights more than two decades ago due to growing health concerns, and most airlines around the world have complied with the ICAO rule.

In 2014 the release of cabinet papers from 1986 revealed opposition to the Australian government's plan to ban smoking on domestic flights. 

On December 16 that year the then-Labor government moved to ban smoking on domestic flights longer than 90 minutes if it received a formal request from the airlines.

Archives historical consultant Jim Stokes said there was opposition at the time.

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"This decision was opposed by the Business Regulation Review Unit, which argued that the benefits of the ban for non-smokers would be more than offset by the inconvenience it would cause to smokers," Dr Stokes said.

Bloomberg with AAP

See also: The 16 shocking things you used to be allowed to do on planes

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