U.S. Proposes Ban on Electronic Cigarettes in Flight: What's a Smoker to Do?

The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a new federal rule that would ban electronic cigarettes (sometimes called e-cigarettes) from all planes in the nation, including domestic and international flights. The current law bans tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes but it does not explicitly mention electronic cigarettes.

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E-Cigarette Sparks Fight with Southwest Flight Attendant

If you’re not familiar with e-cigarettes, most of them are devices that do not burn tobacco but as the Los Angeles Times points out, “use a lithium battery to heat up a liquid nicotine solution, creating a vapor that can be inhaled to deliver the chemical directly into the lungs.” Sometimes, though, it creates confusion among flight attendants (and passengers) who cannot tell the e-version from the real thing.

Recently, a Southwest flight attendant asked a passenger to quit smoking his e-cigarette; the man initially complied but when asked again, he reportedly pelted the cabin crew member with peanuts and pretzels. The FBI arrested him when the plane landed in Salt Lake City, but his alleged crime had little to do with e-cigarettes and everything to do with the charge, “interference with a flight crew”. Remember, while in the air, a crew member’s word is law.

Are E-Cigarettes Dangerous?

According to the website for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it has done no broad study of this product, but it did analyze a small sample of e-cigarette cartridges from two leading brands and found that in some cases, there were “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”

What Airports Allow Smoking?

What’s a smoker to do? As of now, we could find just five U.S. airports permit smoking in certain areas: Atlanta (ATL), Cincinnati (CVG), Denver (DEN), Washington Dulles (IAD) and Salt Lake City (SLC). Note: smoking areas can and do get banished quickly; check the airport’s website for updated information.

Does your airport have one of those weird and wacky codes?

It could be worse (or better, depending on your point of view): for example, Indianapolis’ airport not only forbids smoking inside, it also bans it outside on all airport property including parking areas.

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Published: September 19, 2011