Why You Shouldn’t Smoke on a Boat

It's no big secret that cigarette smoking is very bad for your health. But we’re not doctors here at Boats.net, and it’s not our place to tell you whether you should be smoking them or not.

Smoking cigarettes on a boat

However, if you’re going to smoke cigarettes, cigars or anything else on a boat, here are some things you should keep in mind.

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Cigarette Butts are Harmful to Marine Life

Cigarette butts are toxic to fish, turtles, seabirds and other marine wildlife who can mistake butts for food. These tobacco butts present a choking hazard, leak toxic chemicals, and can be fatal to marine animals

Cigarette butts harmful to seabirds

Cigarette butts can get lodged in the throat or intestinal tract of animals that mistake them for food. They’ve been found in the stomachs of various marine animals, since they’re made from non-biodegradable plastic and can take more than a decade to break down. 

They can find their way into the ocean even if they aren’t flicked off the side of a boat. A butt tossed on the street can be swept down into a drain and ultimately end up in the ocean. Cigarette butts are toxic, and present a clear risk to marine wildlife, so don’t toss yours into the water if you’re going to smoke on a boat.

Why you shouldnt smoke on boats harmful to wildlife

Lit Cigarettes are a Fire Hazard

Some boats will have a dedicated space for smoking on deck, but you may not be able to use it based on the strength and direction of the wind. That’s because a lit cigarette on a windy day can fly out of your hand and land into something that contains flammable material, such as a fuel tank or inside a trash can full of paper. 

Why you shouldn't smoke cigs on a boat

If you’re a boat owner who allows smoking on your boat, provide a designated smoking area for your passengers with bolted-in ashtrays that have lids, or enforce the use of pocket ashtrays. And if you’re a passenger who’s been given the OK to smoke on a boat, bring a pocket ashtray with you. 

Why you shouldn't smoke on boats pocket ashtray

Also, don’t allow smoking inside the cabin or anywhere indoors, even if there’s good ventilation. Cigarette smoke odor lingers on, leaving behind a funky smell that sticks to walls and furniture. Ashes from cigarettes can also burn and stain boat seats, so pick a designated smoking area outside on deck where furniture won’t be affected. Much like smoking inside a car, allowing smoking inside a boat could devalue it.

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The U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t require smoke detectors on recreational boats, but it does require smoke detectors to be installed in sleeping quarters. You should never smoke inside the cabin and galley of a boat, and especially in bed, but if you must, make sure there’s a smoke detector installed high up in the space it's supposed to protect.

Smoking on a boat boat fire

We don’t really talk about ships much here on the Boats.net blog. However, for the purposes of this article, it’s worth noting that in 2006, the cause of a fire on a Caribbean cruise ship called the Star Princess was determined to have been caused by a lit cigarette that was flicked in the wind. The lit butt came back onboard after being flicked and ignited a fire that killed one person and injured several others. 

Once again, you really shouldn’t smoke on a boat or anywhere at all, but if you’re going to do it, here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Don’t flick your cigarette butts over the side of the boat 
  • Put your cigs out in a portable ashtray and empty it out on land
  • Never smoke on a boat if you’re tired, sleepy or drunk
  • Don’t smoke inside the boat, especially in sleeping areas 
  • Hold onto your smokes tightly if it’s windy outside to keep them from blowing out of your hand
  • Keep lit cigarettes away from anything that could catch fire
  • Never light up when refueling a boat or near flammable materials
  • Ask the Captain if it’s OK to smoke onboard first before you light up

Reasons why you shouldn't smoke cigarettes on a boat

That last bullet point is especially important if you ever want to be invited back on another boat trip. Always get the Captain’s permission before you light up on deck. And if the Captain says it’s OK, be considerate and smoke away from other passengers so they don’t breathe in your secondhand smoke. 



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