Can you vape on a plane? The answer is now, very clearly, no.
The Department of Transportation on Wednesday issued a final rule explicitly banning the use of electronic cigarettes from US flights, including those arriving in the country from overseas. In a statement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the rule “protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes.”
Previously, only tobacco cigarettes were banned. The new rule aims to clarify that e-cigarettes are included in the existing ban on the smoking of tobacco products aboard planes.
“The Department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both,” Foxx said.
Last month, during a hearing on the use of vaporizers on planes, California Representative Duncan Hunter made headlines when he pulled out a vaporizer and took a drag to argue that they are safe and should be permitted on planes.
“There’s no combustion. There’s no carcinogens,” the Republican lawmaker said. “This has helped thousands of people quit smoking. It’s helped me quit smoking.”
On Wednesday, Hunter’s chief of staff, Joe Kasper, said the Transportation Department’s decision did not come as a surprise.
“It’s the heavy hand of the government interfering where it shouldn’t — or at least where companies can determine their own policies,” Kasper said. “This Administration sees vaping as a proxy fight with tobacco, it’s that simple, when in actuality vaping is very different, as both a product and a preference.”
In November, the Department of Transportation banned e-cigarettes from checked bags on planes over concerns they could catch fire.
E-cigarettes, which have only been around since 2004, remain a controversial topic. Manufacturers say they help people quit smoking, yet public health advocates say they are a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. There is also increasing research showing that some of the flavorings may be hazardous in themselves.
A recent STAT-Harvard poll found the majority of Americans believe they are harmful to people’s health.