It has been decades since smoking has been allowed on airplanes, so why are there ashtrays in any airplane lavatory I visit? The reason isn’t because the airplane is old and the ashtrays a product of a bye gone era. Instead, it’s federal regulations that STILL require ashtrays to be installed on all modern commercial airliners.
This may sound crazy, but the government has good reason to require ashtrays on board aircraft, even though smoking is illegal in all countries.
In 1973, an airliner crash took the lives of 123 people, with the determined cause having been a carelessly discarded cigarette butt in the lavatory of the airplane. Since this time, ashtrays have been required as a mandatory item on all commercial airliners.
Even though the aircraft has lights, signs, notices, and even flight attendants to remind passengers that smoking on-board is illegal, there are still always going to be passengers who will break the laws and do it. The ashtrays are there for just that reason. To prevent another disaster like the one in 1973.