February 11, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says the use of smokeless electronic cigarettes on airplanes is prohibited and plans to issue an official ban this spring, according to a letter from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood obtained by The Associated Press.
In the letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, LaHood said the department has been informing airlines and the public that it interprets smoking regulations to include e-cigarettes. Lautenberg, who wrote the 1987 law that banned smoking on airplanes, had asked transportation officials to clarify the rule.
Many airlines already have begun informing passengers that the devices are not allowed on flights, but Lautenberg said there had been confusion over their use and wanted to make sure officials were solidly opposed to opening the door to e-smoking on planes. Some e-cigarette distributors have touted their convenience because they can be "smoked" anywhere traditional cigarettes are not allowed.
[Excerpted from answers to Questions for the Record provided by Susan Kurland, Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation, following a June 17, 2010, hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation]
Q. One of the biggest public health victories in this country was when we banned smoking on commercial aircraft. However, electronic cigarettes are now being sold for use on some European commercial flights even though evidence exists that these products contain carcinogens and respiratory irritants. Does the Department plan to explicitly ban smoking of electronic cigarettes on commercial airplanes?
A. Smoking of electronic cigarettes is already banned on U.S. air carrier and foreign air carrier flights in scheduled intrastate, interstate and foreign air transportation. See 49 USC §41706 and 14 CFR Part 252 (Part 252). Nevertheless, we plan to further address this matter in a notice of proposed rulemaking that would amend the existing general regulatory language in Part 252 to explicitly ban smoking of electronic cigarettes aboard aircraft.
"We still don't know the health effects of e-cigarettes, and we don't want to turn airline passengers into laboratory mice," Lautenberg said in an e-mailed statement.
Reference: Use of e-cigs not allowed on US flights by MICHAEL FELBERBAUM AP TOBACCO WRITER, Associated Press, 2/11/2011.
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