A spokesperson for Hartsfield International Airport of Atlanta confirms that Delta Flight 689 was delayed last week when firefighters were called to the tarmac because of reports of a burning backpack onboard. By the time the crew arrived, the flames had been extinguished. Based on several passenger tweets, the incident seems to be the result of the accidental ignition of some kind of vape device.
The episode took place as passengers were still boarding a flight heading to St. Louis, and none of the 160 passengers or flight crew were forced to evacuate the plane. There were no reported injuries and no damage to the aircraft, but the flight was delayed by approximately 20 minutes while the firefighters managed the situation. One passenger named Scott Criscione tweeted a photo of the friendly firefighter involved in the backpack incident.
(Courtesy of @ScottCriscione, Twitter)
This is incredibly bad timing for the vaping industry. Just a few weeks ago on March 3, the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox made the official announcement that vaping on airplanes is now officially banned. While the new regulations still allow passengers to carry vape devices and e-cigs in their carry-on luggage, this latest event in Atlanta may lay the path for even more aggressive anti-vaping regulations.
The controversy over airplane vaping has been in the news for several months, thanks to the controversial “Vaping Congressman,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, pulling out his trusty vape mod during a Congressional hearing on the subject. While a video of Hunter’s creative political tactics went viral, support for voting down the proposed ban did not. Just a few short weeks after Hunter’s antics, the new ban on airplane vaping was in place.
While the St. Louis-bound passenger with the exploding e-cig battery did not break any laws or Delta Airline regulations, the story is attracting attention from the national media. The first responder to Criscione’s firefighter tweet was from a CNN reporter. Fox News and other local outlets also ran similar stories. Most of these stories seem to be somewhat professional in tone, slanted towards a more educational approach regarding battery safety.
The Atlanta incident is just the latest in a long line of news reports regarding an exploding e-cig and vaping devices. The vaping community should be encouraged to be more cautious regarding their vaping practices, especially in public venues. Even though incidents like these may be purely accidental, they are completely avoidable. And with every exploding e-cig story, we come just a little bit closer to misguided federal legislation like that of California Bill SBX2-5, which labels e-cigs as tobacco products, raises taxes, and increases the smoking age to 21.