WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed today hailed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) final rule that explicitly bans the use of electronic cigarettes on commercial flights.  The final rule applies to all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign carriers involving transportation in, to, and from the United States. 

“This is a sensible rule that will help protect consumer health and improve safety on commercial flights.  Airline passengers and flight attendants should not be subjected to potential harm from e-cigarette secondhand exposure.  And the new rule makes it less likely that these devices will spark an emergency,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) who has been working since 2014 to urge DOT to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes on airplanes and has called for stricter FDA regulation of e-cigarettes.

Last year, Reed, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who Chairs the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, included bipartisan language in the Senate THUD report directing DOT to finalize the rule, stating: “Given recent incidences of fires involving electronic cigarettes in checked baggage, the Committee is pleased that the Federal Aviation Administration has been working with the International Civil Aviation Organization and has issued a safety alert recommending that e-cigarettes and related devices not be allowed in checked luggage within the cargo hold of planes. However, the Committee remains concerned about the sufficiency of these measures. The Secretary is directed to report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 60 days of enactment of this act on the agency’s progress, and on any additional measures that may be warranted or statutory authority that may be required to prevent the incidence of fires caused by electronic cigarettes.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation first published proposed rules to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft in September of 2011.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) already bans e-cigarettes from checked luggage, but passengers can take them in their carry-on bag.  Earlier this year, Hawaiian Airlines said one of their flights was forced to make an emergency landing after an e-cigarette that was illegally put in a checked bag caused the captain to activate the plane’s fire-suppression system.

“This final rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used onboard airplanes,” said Secretary Foxx.  “The Department took a practical approach to eliminate  any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”

The final rule, to be published in the Federal Register, clarifies that DOT’s airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products in addition to the existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco products.

Electronic cigarettes cause concern because studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol can contain a number of harmful chemicals.  While further study is needed to fully understand the risks, the DOT believes that a precautionary approach is best.  The Department is particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within a confined space, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals.

This rule explicitly bans 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.  The ban does not include the use of medical devices such as a nebulizers.

For more information on PHMSA’s Interim Final Rule, visit http://phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/hazardous-materials-carriage-of-battery-powered-electronic-smoking-devices-in-passenger-baggage