On this date 25 years ago, “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em” was no longer an acceptable phrase on all domestic flights in the U.S.
And on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, reminded everyone of how the legislation came to be.
At the time, he was a House member and joined up with the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, to clear the air on planes.
But as Durbin pointed out, it was “a law that came about because of a dare.”
It all started in an airport in Phoenix.
“I was late, and I ran up to the United Airlines counter, and the ticket agent started processing my ticket to get on the flight, and she said to me, ‘Here’s your boarding pass,’ and I looked at it and I noticed that she had put me into the smoking section on the airplane, and I said to her, ‘I don’t want to sit in the smoking section, isn’t there something you can do about this?’” Durbin said.
Looking back on it, having a smoking section in an enclosed cabin where the air is recirculated throughout it is fairly ridiculous.
The ticket agent pointed out to Durbin that since he was in Congress, there was in fact something he could do about it.
“I got on that airplane, got stuck in the middle seat in the smoking section at the back of the plane, surrounded by smokers,” he said. “This makes no sense at all. There’s an older person, who may have a pulmonary problem, there’s a mother with a baby. They’re sitting in the non-smoking section, two rows away from me?”
He then introduced the bill to ban smoking on planes, to which he says his staff thought he was crazy.
“Nobody had ever beaten the tobacco lobby,” Durbin said.
“To the shock and the surprise of the tobacco lobby, we won!” Durbin said.