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Government Tightens Ban of Electronic Cigarettes on US Flights

Date Posted: September 20, 2011

While individual airlines already banned the use of electronic cigarettes aboard their flights earlier this year, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing to explicitly ban the use of the devices on airplanes. The DOT believes its current ban on smoking of tobacco products is broad enough to include electronic cigarettes but wants to eliminate any confusion.

The “No Smoking” rule in airplanes has been keeping cabins smoke-free since 1998 but it seems that although electronic cigarettes do not give off smoke, they are still raising eyebrows amongst airlines passengers. Back in February, the DOT spoke of its plan to issue an official ban on electronic cigarettes during the spring. Shortly after, numerous airlines went ahead and individually banned the use of the devices during flights.

In a letter dating back to February, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to Senator Frank Lautenberg said the department had been informing airlines and the public that regulations banning smoking included electronic cigarettes. Lautenberg, who wrote the 1987 law that banned smoking on airplanes, had asked the department to clarify the rule because some air travelers were still confused over their use.

“I sat next to someone who was e-smoking and it’s impossible to contain all of the nicotine mist. I don’t want to breathe that stuff and shouldn’t have to sit next to someone one a plane who is spewing chemically loaded mist. Get a patch or nicotine gum if your addiction is that bad,” said one passenger.  Electronic cigarettes are a potential cause for concern because “there is a lack of scientific data and knowledge of the ingredients in electronic cigarettes,” the DOT said.  However, “the problem is not with the people using this device, but with the people around them who are psychologically affected by the fact that it LOOKS like a cigarette and someone is sucking on it,” said another passenger.

The DOT’s proposed rule would apply to all U.S and foreign airlines on scheduled flights to and from the United States and officials are considering extending the ban on smoking to charter flights. Amtrak has already banned the use of e-cigarettes on trains and in any area where smoking is prohibited, the DOT said, and the U.S. Navy doesn’t allow them below decks in submarines. This ban will not extend to carry on luggage, so you may still pass through airport security with electronic cigarettes.

Regulations.gov is accepting public comments on the proposal until November 14. We urge you to voice your opinion by following this link.

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