The Department of Transportation has now issued a formal ban on the usage and carriage of e-cigarettes on commercial and some chartered flights.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the final rule today which will apply “to all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers involving transportation in, to, and from the U.S.,” the USDOT writes.
“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 Secretary Foxx. “The Department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”
The rule will be published in the Federal Register, and categorises electronic cigarets and similar products as falling under existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco on commercial aircraft.
The Department believes the language of the rule for the existing smoking ban to have been “sufficiently broad to include the use of electronic cigarettes” but acknowledges that the definition of “smoking” required clarification. Making that nuance clear is the purpose of the new rule. The Department says it wants to “eliminate any confusion over whether its ban includes electronic cigarettes.”
The Department also references studies which it says 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 USDOT writes in its announcement.
The Department expressed concern about the impact to vulnerable passengers “such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues” of exposure to e-cigarette aerosol in a confined space.
“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 nebulisers,” the USDOT writes.
The ban will also apply to all charter (nonscheduled) flights of U.S. and foreign airlines if a flight attendant is a required crew-member, keeping the Department’s new e-cigarette rule compliant with a 2012 statutory amendment which effectively banned tobacco smoking on chartered flights with working cabin crew.
Another concern with e-cigarettes is the source of power used in these electronic devices.
“The Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) previously addressed safety concerns regarding the transport of electronic cigarettes,” the USDOT writes. “In October 2015, PHMSA issued an interim final rule prohibiting passengers from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices in checked baggage and prohibiting them from charging these devices or batteries on board aircraft.”