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U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes to Ban the Use of Electronic Cigarettes on Aircraft

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Department of Transportation is proposing to explicitly ban the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft.

“Airline passengers have rights, and this new rule would enhance passenger comfort and reduce any confusion surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes in flight,” said Secretary LaHood.

A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in today’s Federal Register would clarify that the airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products, as tobacco products are now prohibited.  Electronic cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to the smoker in the form of a vapor.

Electronic cigarettes cause potential concern because there is a lack of scientific data and knowledge of the ingredients in electronic cigarettes.  The Department views its current regulatory ban on smoking of tobacco products to be sufficiently broad to include the use of electronic cigarettes.  The Department is taking this action to eliminate any confusion over whether the Department’s ban includes electronic cigarettes.  The proposal would apply to all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers involving transportation to and from the U.S.

Amtrak has banned the use of electronic smoking devices on trains and in any area where smoking is prohibited. The Air Force Surgeon General issued a memorandum highlighting the safety concerns regarding electronic cigarettes and placed them in the same category as tobacco products. The U.S Navy has banned electronic cigarettes below decks in submarines.  Further, several states have taken steps to ban either the sale or use of electronic cigarettes.

This NPRM proposes an explicit ban on the use 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.  The ban does not include the use of a device such as a nebulizer that delivers a medically beneficial substance to a user in the form of a vapor.

The Department is also considering whether to extend the ban on smoking, including electronic cigarettes, to charter flights of U.S. carriers and foreign air carriers with aircraft that have a designed seating capacity of 19 or more passenger seats.

The rulemaking proposed today is a part of the Department's broader effort to strengthen airline passenger rights and improve information available to the public.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011