The Inconsistent Rules For Chewing Tobacco on Airlines: What You Need to Know

by joeheg

There’s no other form of transportation where you give up as much freedom of personal space as airplanes. Unlike other modes of transportation, such as your car or a train, when you board an airplane, you’re confined to a small seat for the duration of the flight. This is especially challenging as the seats on planes are designed to occupy the least amount of space, leaving you with very little room for movement.

However, the most restrictive aspect of air travel is the requirement to remain seated for extended periods of time. During taxiing, take-off, turbulence, and landing, passengers must remain in their seats with their seatbelts fastened. The lack of personal space and freedom of movement can make air travel uncomfortable for many passengers, especially those on long-haul flights.

Regardless of whether you’re on a long-haul flight or a puddle jumper, you’re going to be seated next to strangers for a while, so you can only hope they’re considerate of your personal space. A flight can be ruined by numerous things, such as a passenger who listens to their phone without headphones, people who have loud conversations, a manspreader who can’t take a hint, or someone who keeps pushing the back of your seat. Additionally, some things can make you feel physically uncomfortable if they attack your senses, such as someone eating food with a particularly strong smell, or a passenger with a strong aroma of either perfume, cologne, or body odor.

However, I’d rather endure any of those than have to relive one of the worst things I’ve experienced on a flight. That was when we were seated next to a passenger who chewed tobacco throughout the entire journey, spitting the tobacco juice into a Gatorade bottle they brought with them for that very purpose.

a person holding a bottle of waterWhile smoking, vaping, and electronic cigarettes are banned on all flights, there’s no such ban on other tobacco products. The FAA doesn’t mention them, and the TSA allows them onboard. Rules regarding chewing tobacco and nicotine pouches use on airlines are inconsistent, and it can be difficult to find information on the topic on an airline’s website.

Airlines That Prohibit Chewing Tobacco

  • Allegiant – All Allegiant flights are non-smoking. Smoking and the use of all tobacco products are strictly prohibited. This includes chewing tobacco, electronic e-cigarettes or an equivalent type of product.
  • Delta – Delta prohibits smoking and the use of all smokeless tobacco products (including e-cigarettes and vapes) on all flights.
  • Spirit -Spirit is a smoke-free airline. Use of tobacco products (including smokeless tobacco) is prohibited on all Spirit flights.
  • United – Smoking (including the use of electronic simulated smoking materials and smokeless cigarettes) is not permitted on any flights operated by UA. Use of betel nut (i.e., betel chewing) or any other type of chewing tobacco is also prohibited on all flights operated by United.

Airlines Where It’s Probably Not Allowed

  • American Airlines—I found several posts on X (formerly Twitter) from American Airlines as recently as 2022 stating that smokeless tobacco is not allowed on American Airlines. American Airlines also prohibits chewing tobacco in its Admirals Club and Flagship Lounges.
  • Alaska Airlines – The rules online are confusing, with no mention of smokeless tobacco. “Smoking (including use of electronic simulated smoking materials and smokeless cigarettes) is not permitted on any flights operated by Alaska.” I did find several posts on X (formerly Twitter) saying chewing tobacco is not allowed.  However, Alaska does explicitly prohibit the use of chewing tobacco in its lounges.

Airlines That Allow Passengers To Chew Tobacco

While no airlines directly say this in their Contract of Carriage, they all omit smokeless tobacco from the rules on smoking and cigarettes. When pressed on the topic via social media, each airline has recently posted on X (formerly Twitter) that chewing tobacco is allowed on their flights.

Final Thought

While most airlines have it written in the contract of carriage or have a policy against chewing tobacco onboard planes, it will always come down to enforcement once onboard. Simply letting a passenger know that it’s not allowed might be enough to get them to stop. I also read several Reddit threads where tobacco users were considerate of other passengers and used spitless products or other methods to avoid using a spit cup at their seats. But if you come across a passenger who won’t listen, you can always get the flight crew involved. Unless you’re flying on Southwest or JetBlue and then you’re stuck.

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