Just yesterday, March 3, 2016, Secretary Anthony Fox of the U.S. Department of Transportation made the official announcement that vaping on airplanes is now an illegal act. Although explicit language in the statute still allows for medical inhalers and other devices such as nebulizers, the new ruling is seen as a significant setback for vaping advocates. This new legislation applies to all domestic flights and international air travel involving “transportation in, to, and from the U.S.”
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is interviewed about his vaporizer pen in his Rayburn office, January 13, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
While a ban against smoking traditional tobacco products on airplanes has been in effect for over a decade, the previous regulations did not specifically prohibit the use of e-cigs and other vaping devices. This lack of clarity has led to a surge in Congressional debate as the rise in popularity of vaping technology continues to escalate in the past few years. As a result, Congress was forced to either write a new law distinctly allowing vaping on airplanes or to update the current laws to prohibit it.
As perhaps a last ditch attempt to sway both public and political opinion, Rep. Duncan Hunter, otherwise called “The Vaping Congressman,” recently pulled out his vape mod during a Congressional hearing on the matter. The video of the Republican lawmaker immediately went viral, but in the end, Hunter’s cloud-spewing display was not as effective as he had hoped. Exactly three weeks later, the DOT ruling to ban vaping on airplanes was made official.
The regulations also include other very precise wording regarding the ban 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…to all flights where a flight attendant is a required crewmember.”
Does an absence of a flight attendant mean that vaping on airplanes is legal? In cases of privately owned and operated aircraft, this would appear to be the case. But when traveling on a public airline carrier, passengers have even bigger things to worry about than just vaping on airplanes. According to yesterday’s DOT announcement, travelers are also forbidden to recharge their vaping devices during flight and are not even allowed to have them on the plane.
“(The DOT prohibits 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 new regulations reference certain “studies” that seem to indicate that “e-cigarette aerosol can contain a number of harmful chemicals.” However, in the very next sentence, the DOT goes on to acknowledge that “further study is needed to fully understand the risks.” While the DOT calls this new legislation merely a “precautionary approach,” the new ban offers little comfort to those in the vaping industry living under a constant threat of even harsher government regulations that could essentially wipe them out of business overnight.