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Department of Transportation sued over vaping on airplanes

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Two major consumer advocacy groups are banding together to file a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has no legal authority to ban vaping on airplanes.  Members of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) are issuing statements declaring that the DOT is illegally rewriting congressional law, which is an abuse of power. 

While the CEI and the CASAA agree that the DOT has the legal authority to ban the smoking of traditional tobacco products, they believe a ban against vaping on airplanes is not warranted simply because electronic-cigarettes do not emit smoke.  They also agree that the final decisions regarding airline vaping or the transportation of vaping technology in luggage or checked baggage should be left to the individual airplanes.

“Congress never gave regulators the power to prohibit e-cigarette use aboard aircraft…The Department of Transportation is inventing authority it clearly does not have.  Anyone concerned about government overreach should be worried by this abuse of power.”
-Marc Scribner, member of the CEI.


In response, the DOT says that the new anti-vaping rule is only meant as a clarification to public confusion between e-cigs and smoking.  Public concerns over exploding electronic cigarettes technology and second-hand vapor are contributing to this confusion. Therefore, the DOT believes that vaping should be treated no differently than smoking.

“(The concern is) the potential adverse health effects of secondhand exposure to aerosols generated by e-cigarettes, particularly in the unique environment of an aircraft cabin”.
- Official wording of the newly amended DOT regulations entitled, Use of electronic cigarettes on Aircrafts.

But the international medical community is warning that the water vapor of e-cigs is not filled with the thousands of toxic chemicals of tobacco smoke.  Even though the House approved the DOT amendment earlier in the year, the timing of the CEI/CASAA lawsuit might be ideal. 

Within the past week, the British Royal College of Physicians issued a report stating that the usage of e-cigs and vaping as smoking cessation methods should be encouraged rather than discouraged by national governments.  Former Welsh Director General Clive Bates also called anti-vaping legislation “defacto protection” for Big Tobacco.”  And a group of seven world-class physicians recently came out in favor of vaping as a 95% healthier alternative to smoking that should be embraced. 


Perhaps this recent and overwhelming support for vaping by the worldwide medical community is working.  In late April 2016, the House Appropriations Committee passed a new FDA amendment that would change the predicate date for the deeming regulations of e-cigs and vaping devices, legislation that would essentially save the American vaping industry.  It appears as if the U.S. Congress is beginning to loosen their grip on long held beliefs that vaping and smoking are one in the same. If the new FDA amendment passes, perhaps the CEI/CASAA lawsuit over vaping on airplanes may also lead to another change of political heart.

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