Electronic cigarettes – or rather their use – may soon be formally banned on all passenger aircraft in the United States. As you probably know, smoking a cigarette on your flight has been illegal for quite some time…since 1987 in fact.
The original law passed by Congress states (…in 49 USC Section 41706) “An individual may not ‘smoke’ in an aircraft.” After the law was passed, the U.S. Department of Transportation wrote regulations to enforce this new law.
However, using an e-cigarette is not smoking as defined by DOT regulations. Combustion does not occur and the device doesn’t emit smoke, it emits (…and you exhale) water vapor. Therefore, it cannot be legally regulated under current law. What would need to occur is for Congress to amend the 1987 law to include electronic cigarette devices.
Today though, it appears the DOT is essentially writing its own laws to re-define what smoking is. Their proposal would slap a maximum fine of $3300 on anyone caught using an e-cigarette on an airplane.
This is equal to the fine imposed for smoking a regular cigarette, which we and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) find to be quite extreme and in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.
CASAA’s advisory also says the DOT hasn’t produced any evidence to suggest that water vapor coming off an e-cigarette is harmful to bystanders…we certainly haven’t seen any evidence of this sort.
CASAA has a great advisory on the proposed regulations along with contact information for the agency. They’re accepting comments through Nov. 14th so we implore you to take a few moments and send a polite, yet firm comment to the DOT asking them to withdraw their proposal.
The advisory also includes links to several studies showing e-cigarettes to be on par with nicotine replacement therapies (gums, patches) in terms of toxicity.