Last updated: 03:22 PM ET, Wed March 02 2016

US Government Bans E-Cigarettes On All Flights

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | March 02, 2016

US Government Bans E-Cigarettes On All Flights

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Users of electronic cigarettes have long said the practice is significantly different from traditional "smoking," referring to it as "vaping."

The United States government thinks otherwise, at least when it comes to air travel.

The U.S. Department of Transportation today banned all e-cigs from all commercial airline flights on all scheduled domestic and foreign carriers traveling into, out of, or within the U.S.

The ban goes into effect 30 days after the notice appears on Friday, March 4, in the Federal Register.

 “This final rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used onboard airplanes,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “The Department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”

READ MORE: National Park Service Bans Electronic Cigarettes

Smoking traditional, or tobacco, cigarettes on commercial flights in the U.S. has been banned for 30 years. The final rule clarifies that the Department’s airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products in addition to the existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco products.

The DOT said it views its current regulatory smoking ban to be “sufficiently broad to include the use of electronic cigarettes; however, the prior rule did not explicitly define “smoking.”  The Department took this action to eliminate any confusion over whether its ban includes electronic cigarettes.”

This rule explicitly bans the use of electronic cigarettes in all forms, including but not limited to electronic cigars, pipes, and devices designed to look like everyday products such as pens.  The ban does not include the use of medical devices such as a nebulizers.

The DOT’s ruling is two-fold. One, it has concerns – much like lithium-ion batteries in cell phones and laptops – about the battery-powered e-cigarettes packed in checked luggage.

READ MORE: FAA Tells Airlines to Reevaluate Lithium Ion Battery Dangers

The Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) previously addressed safety concerns regarding the transport of electronic cigarettes in October 2015, when an interim final rule prohibited passengers from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in checked baggage and prohibiting them from charging these devices or batteries on board aircraft.

The second is a health concern. The DOT said “studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol can contain a number of harmful chemicals.  While further study is needed to fully understand the risks, the Department believes that a precautionary approach is best.  The Department is particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within a confined space, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals.”

The ban on smoking, including e-cigs, was also extended to any charter flight where a flight attendant is a required crewmember.  


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