If you get your nicotine fix from an electronic cigarette, forget about doing so on a commercial flight in the U.S.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today in a news release that e-cigarettes would be banned on all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers into and out of the U.S. The U.S. Transportation Department also extended its ban against smoking to charter flights on which a flight attendant is a required crew member.
“This final rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used on board airplanes,” Foxx said in the release. “The department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”
The release cited studies showing that e-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful chemicals. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that replicate smoking, but use a nicotine solution rather than tobacco.
“While further study is needed to fully understand the risks, the department believes that a precautionary approach is best. The department is particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within a confined space, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals,” the release said.
The release said the Transportation Department “views its current regulatory smoking ban to be sufficiently broad to include the use of electronic cigarettes; however, the prior rule did not explicitly define ‘smoking.’ The department took this action to eliminate any confusion over whether its ban includes electronic cigarettes.”
Cynthia Cabrera, president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, which bills itself as “the Voice of the Electronic Vapor Industry,” acknowledged the ban but sought to allay concerns about e-cigarettes.
“While we defer to the Transportation Department prohibiting the use of vapor products on commercial flights, it’s important to know that vapor products are fundamentally and scientifically different than combustible tobacco and should not be equated with the harmful effects of smoking,” Cabrera said in a news release.
Despite the announcement, it’s not clear how many regular air travelers would notice a difference. Information on the website for blue eCigs, citing a “Business Insider” report, says no major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest or United, allow e-cigarette use.