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CEI v. DOT: Lawsuit over airplane vaping heats up

Posted by Matt Rowland on

Approximately one year ago, a relatively unknown congressman named Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) pulled out his trusty vape pen and began blowing small plumes of vapor across the room during a congressional hearing on airplane vaping.  The video of his eccentric behavior went viral throughout the vaping community, and a star was born.  Hunter was immediately nicknamed “The Vaping Congressman.”

While his vaporous antics were applauded by the vaping community far and wide, his congressional cloudchasing routine did little to curry favor with the political elite.   Within days, Hunter lost the battle.  Vaping on airplanes is now banned.

Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) joins the debate

Around this same time, a rather obscure lobbyist group known for favoring limited government and free enterprise decided to pick up the ball and run with it.  Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.  Lawsuit CEI v. DOT challenges the Department of Transportation’s decision to ban airplane vaping. The pro-vaping advocacy group Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) is also one of the plaintiffs.

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After nearly a year, the case is finally seeing the inside of a court room.  And according to the CEI website, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Sam Kazman, came out swinging by claiming that the DOT has “overstepped its authority.”

CEI, CASAA, and even Duncan Hunter are not really arguing whether or not a person has the legal right to cloudchase while sitting in the window seat of a 747.  But if the case is overturned by the Court of Appeals, that very scenario may become a reality.  The basis of Kazman’s argument is that the vapor from electronic cigarettes is not considered a significant health risk – even according to the DOT itself.  Therefore, the decision must be overturned.

“Until the DOT decided to ban the use of vapes on a plane (alleging that vaping counts as smoking), airlines were fully able to prohibit their use and most did. However, in March 2016, the agency decided to impose a new prohibition under Congress’s anti-smoking airlines statute. The agency did this despite the fact the DOT itself admitted five years earlier that e-cigarettes neither burn tobacco nor produce smoke and without providing evidence of harm to passengers.”

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Rep. Duncan Hunter took the debate one step further.  In his infamous vapor-induced congressional rant, Hunter claimed that the healthcare industry is already looking to vaping as the new, preferred method of ingesting prescription medications.  He predicts that millions of Americans will very soon be buying vaping devices in mass quantities, but rather than inhaling their favorite e-juices, they’ll be vaping everything from aspirin to Prozac instead.

There are many sides to this argument, and everyone has a right to their own opinion.  But is airplane vaping really a fight worth fighting?

A return to proper vaping etiquette?

Public perception of vaping is at an all-time low.  Vaping is consistently demonized in the press with intentionally misleading rhetoric spouted by such authoritative organizations as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and even the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney General Vivek Murthy. 

Does the vaping community really agree that airplane vaping is a right that we cannot do without?   Or should we be putting our efforts into other, more valuable causes like repealing the FDA deeming regulations or passing the Cole-Bishop Amendment? Or perhaps we can do it all?

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Duncan Hunter wanted to make airplane vaping legal for a very noble reason.  Vaping medication is the wave of the future.  But his congressional vape show did nothing but inflame an already prejudicial political punditry. Besides, does anyone really want an airplane cabin filled with e-cig vapor laced with who-knows-what-type-of-medication?

Now, CEI is not saying that airplane vaping should be made legal.  CEI only wants the DOT to stay out of the debate.  CEI believes that if an airline company wants to allow vaping on their own airplanes, then they should have the legal right to do so.

Still, one has to wonder.  Doesn’t basic vaping etiquette dictate that that vaping on airplanes is just plain rude to non-vapers and no-smokers?  Feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints, policy or company position of Vapes.com, the rest of our staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.



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