USDOT Finalizes Rule Banning the Use of Electronic Cigarettes on All Commercial Flights
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USDOT Finalizes Rule Banning the Use of Electronic Cigarettes on All Commercial Flights

March 2, 2016

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced a 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 U.S.

"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, which will be published in the Federal Register, clarifies that the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products. This is in addition to the existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco products.

The USDOT says that it views its current regulatory smoking ban on commercial flights to be sufficiently broad to include the use of electronic cigarettes; however, the prior rule did not explicitly define "smoking." The new final rule is intended to eliminate any confusion over whether the ban includes electronic cigarettes—it does.

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 USDOT says that it believes a precautionary approach is best. The agency says that it is particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within the confined space of an airplane, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals.

This new final 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.

The ban on smoking, including electronic cigarettes, has also been extended to apply to all charter (nonscheduled) flights of U.S. carriers and foreign air carriers where a flight attendant is a required crewmember.

Per a rule issued in October of 2015, battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices are also prohibited in checked baggage. Additionally, passengers are banned from charging the devices or their batteries onboard an aircraft.

The final rule can be viewed in its entirety at, docket number DOT-OST-2011-0044.