Tobacco in Space: Astronauts and Cigarettes

When envisioning astronauts of yesteryears, many picture gallant figures clad in space suits, venturing into the cosmic unknown. However, a lesser-known fact is that these pioneers of space might have occasionally enjoyed a cigarette amidst the weightlessness of the universe. A delve into space's annals reveals a fascinating intertwining of tobacco with the age of cosmic exploration. Once, it wasn't uncommon for these astronauts, reflecting societal norms, to light up a cigarette in zero gravity, merging the allure of the stars with earthly indulgences. This surprising tidbit sheds light on the human aspects of space travel, where even in the vastness of the cosmos, familiar earthly comforts found their way.

Historical instances of tobacco in space missions

The genesis of space exploration was as much a reflection of technological prowess as it was a mirror to the societal norms and practices of the times. In the mid-twentieth century, when the space race was at its peak, another widespread phenomenon was taking place on Earth – the popularity of smoking. It was a time when lighting up a cigarette was not just a pastime; it was ingrained in the culture, an emblem of relaxation, sophistication, and sometimes even camaraderie. Therefore, as the world watched in awe as astronauts embarked on groundbreaking journeys into the cosmos, behind the scenes, these very astronauts often celebrated their successes, relished their breaks, or even dealt with the incredible stress of space travel with a puff of their favorite brand.

But official space guidelines and strict protocols didn't always align with this earthly habit. Despite the stringent measures, there have been whispers and stories, some documented and others passed down as space folklore, about astronauts who managed to sneak cigarettes onto their missions. These weren't acts of defiance against the system; instead, they were little rebellions, moments where astronauts clung to the familiar in an environment that was anything but. Picture this: an astronaut, having just accomplished a complex task in the infinite void of space, decides to indulge in a fleeting moment of earthly pleasure. In the cold, sterile, and high-tech confines of a spaceship, the simple act of lighting up a cigarette brought warmth, comfort, and a semblance of normalcy.

However, it's essential to understand that these incidents, while painting a romantic picture, weren't just about sneaking a smoke. They highlighted the undying spirit of these space explorers, their tenacity, and their unwavering determination. In an environment that was a stark departure from everything human, where every action was calculated, and every decision could be the difference between life and death, these little acts of rebellion were reminders of their humanity. The cigarettes became more than just tobacco wrapped in paper; they were symbols. Symbols of resilience, of a refusal to be entirely caged by protocols, and a testament to the astronauts' need to tether themselves to the world they left behind, even if just through a wisp of smoke in the vast, endless expanse of space.

Controversies and health implications in a zero-gravity environment

In the otherworldly realm of zero gravity, the act of smoking transcends the conventional experiences on Earth. Unlike our planet where smoke naturally rises, in the weightlessness of space, it lingers, forming a nebulous halo around the smoker. This characteristic not only accentuates the direct health perils of smoking, with enhanced inhalation of tar and nicotine, but it also poses a profound secondary risk. Given spacecrafts' confined environments and finite air reserves, the residual contaminants from tobacco smoke persist, saturating the shared atmosphere for extended durations. This extended exposure substantially magnifies the threat of secondhand smoke for everyone onboard. Furthermore, an intriguing consideration arises when contemplating the act of smoking in space: our lungs, having evolved under Earth's gravitational pull, encounter a radically different experience while processing smoke in a zero-gravity context.

The evolution of astronaut attitudes towards smoking

As the pages of history turned and humanity advanced in its knowledge, the world began to grapple with the undeniable health consequences of smoking. This newfound enlightenment was not confined merely to Earth; it echoed in the vast corridors of space as well. Astronauts, once glorified adventurers who occasionally indulged in a cigarette to toast their victories or soothe their nerves, began to witness a transformation in their perceptions. The revelations about the dangers of smoking not only cast a shadow over its erstwhile allure but also ignited a profound shift in the way astronauts viewed their own actions and the ripple effects they might have.

With the spotlight of admiration and reverence shining brightly on them, astronauts soon realized that their every move was under scrutiny and had the power to influence countless young minds on our blue planet. Embracing their roles as inadvertent role models, the act of lighting up a cigarette in the vast expanse of space transformed from a casual, personal choice to a weighty decision with far-reaching consequences. No longer just a private indulgence, it bore the weight of the impressionable eyes watching them. This awareness, married with the growing evidence of health risks associated with smoking, steered space agencies and their intrepid explorers towards a more health-conscious trajectory, gradually relegating smoking in space missions to the annals of history.

The science behind combustion and tobacco smoke in space

The mysteries of space aren't limited to black holes and distant galaxies; they extend to the seemingly mundane act of lighting a match. In the weightless realms of space, combustion defies our terrestrial intuitions. Devoid of gravity's pull, the familiar upward drift of hot air is absent, leading to alterations in both the appearance and behavior of a flame, which adopts a distinctive blue hue and a rounded configuration. This isn't limited to matches alone; even a cigarette, when lit, would boast a blue flame, with its ash taking on a spherical form, contrasting starkly with the familiar tapering ash on Earth. But these phenomena aren't mere curiosities for the scientifically inclined. They're indicators of the fundamental differences in how substances react in space, underscoring critical considerations for the safety protocols and air quality measures aboard spacecraft.

Modern policies regarding smoking in space

In today's era, as space exploration continues to push the boundaries of human knowledge and capability, the policies governing life aboard spacecraft have evolved to reflect our enhanced understanding of health and safety. The romanticized image of an astronaut lighting up a cigarette amidst the stars has faded, replaced by the stark realities of the challenges of maintaining a safe and habitable environment in the unforgiving void of space. Modern space agencies, equipped with an arsenal of knowledge about the perils of tobacco, have instituted stringent rules prohibiting smoking in space. It's not just a nod to the known health implications on Earth but a reflection of the unique challenges posed by the closed environments of spacecraft.

The intricate machinery aboard these vessels, designed for precise tasks in extremely controlled conditions, can be severely hampered by contaminants. Tobacco smoke, with its myriad of particles and chemicals, can jeopardize the functionality of these delicate instruments, potentially compromising both mission objectives and the safety of the crew. Beyond the machinery, there's the invaluable human element. Astronauts, representing the pinnacle of human health and capability, operate in tight quarters with limited air supplies. Ensuring that this air remains uncontaminated is not just about comfort; it's a matter of life and death. In this microcosm away from Earth, maintaining a pristine environment free from pollutants like tobacco smoke becomes paramount for the success of the mission and the well-being of those aboard.


The trajectory of space exploration's association with tobacco has been a remarkable one, evolving from audacious episodes of astronauts smuggling cigarettes into space to an era marked by heightened cognizance of associated health risks. This metamorphosis signifies more than just a change in policies; it's a reflection of humanity's maturing perspective on well-being and responsibility. Modern space agencies, standing at the forefront of technological and scientific endeavors, are unwavering in their commitment to safeguarding astronaut health, recognizing that the sanctity of a spacecraft's environment is integral to mission success. As these agencies propel humanity to new frontiers, their focus remains clear: exploration and discovery shouldn't come at the cost of health. In this vast cosmic dance, the priorities are clear - expanding horizons without diminishing the sanctity of human well-being.


Did astronauts smoke in space?
Yes, there have been instances in the past where astronauts smoked during space missions, reflecting the societal norms of the time.

How does smoke behave in zero gravity?
In zero gravity, smoke doesn't rise. Instead, it forms a cloud around the source, leading to prolonged exposure to the harmful effects of the smoke.

Why is smoking dangerous in space?
Beyond the known health risks of smoking, the limited air supply in spacecraft means that contaminants linger, posing risks to both the smoker and other crew members. Additionally, the delicate instruments in spacecraft can be compromised by tobacco smoke.

Have modern space agencies banned smoking in space?
Yes, modern space agencies like NASA and ESA have strict policies against smoking in space to ensure the health and safety of astronauts and the functionality of spacecraft instruments.

How does a cigarette burn in space?
Due to the lack of gravity, a burning cigarette in space would have a blue flame and produce spherical ash, which is different from how it burns on Earth.


  • Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction:
  • Non-Smokers' Rights Association:
  • Canada's National Non-Smoking Week: