The use of electronic cigarettes on commercial airplanes is now banned under a new rule finalized by the US Department of Transportation, which applies to all domestic and foreign carriers with flights scheduled to and from the US. The ban applies to all e-cigarettes, including electronic cigars, pipes, and devices designed to look like everyday products such as pens. It does not apply to nebulizers, which are used to treat cystic fibrosis and asthma.
It’s not clear, however, whether the rule applies to vaporizers, some of which look like pens, while others look like smartphones with tubes attached. The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t made an official ruling, but it stands to reason that the DOT’s new rule will also apply to vaporizers. (A spokesperson for the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
The House of Representatives is considering legislation to ban vaping on planes. A recent hearing on the measure featured one congressman, California Representative Duncan Hunter, taking a drag of his vaporizer in protest and declaring, “This is the future.”
DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said the ban is intended to protect passengers from “unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes” that is the product of smoking e-cigarettes. While the DOT said it considers its regulatory smoking ban to include e-cigarettes, the rule does not explicitly define “smoking,” so the department took this step to eliminate any confusion. Research about the health effects of e-cigarettes and vaping is still ongoing — the Food and Drug Administration recently said there’s a lack of scientific consensus — but rather than wait for more studies to come out, the agency said a precautionary approach was best.