CUPE has a long and proud history of fighting and getting results for our airline industry workers. In the early 1980s, CUPE flight attendants began campaigning against tobacco smoke on planes. For them, tobacco smoke was a toxic substance that they shouldn’t have to be exposed to on the job.
Led by our flight attendant members, CUPE lobbied the federal government, built a coalition of allies, and engaged in a nationwide letter-writing campaign. In 1987, Canadian Airlines International was the first airline carrier to ban smoking on all North American flights. Air Canada followed suit in 1988.
In 1988, in response to mounting public pressure, NDP MP Lynn McDonald introduced the “Non-Smokers Health Act.” Under the NSHA, smoking in federal work spaces is prohibited, except in designated rooms and areas. The NSHA was enforced on December 30, 1989 and effectively banned smoking on all Canadian domestic flights and international flights operated by a Canadian airline.
Because of the work of CUPE flight attendant activists, Canada became a leader in taking action against the occupational health and safety hazards caused by environmental tobacco smoke. Canadian delegates to the 1992 Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization put forward a resolution urging all countries to “take necessary measures as soon as possible to restrict smoking progressively on all international passenger flights with the objective of implementing complete smoking bans.”
Today, CUPE continues our work on improving air quality on airlines by advocating for Transport Canada to require all aircraft be fitted with filtration systems that eliminate any potential air contamination.
Join us in taking action by signing CUPE’s Safer Skies petition.