DOT Seeks to Ban Use of Electronic Cigarettes

In a move that will increase inflight restrictions, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing to explicitly ban the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft.

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

“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 DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

Electronic cigarettes cause potential concern because there is a lack of scientific data and knowledge of the ingredients in electronic cigarettes, the DOT says. "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."

DOT said that Amtrak has banned the use of electronic smoking devices on trains and in any area where smoking is prohibited.

The DOT's 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. 

DOT also said it 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 DOT's effort to strengthen airline passenger rights and improve information available to the public, the department said.