Smoking of Electronic Cigarettes on Aircraft

The Department of Transportation is proposing to amend its existing airline smoking rule to explicitly ban the use of electronic cigarettes on all aircraft in scheduled passenger interstate, intrastate and foreign air transportation. The Department is taking this action because of the increased promotion of electronic cigarettes and the potential health and passenger comfort concerns that they pose in an aircraft. The Department is also considering whether to extend the ban on smoking (including electronic cigarettes) to charter flights of air carriers (i.e. U.S. carriers) and foreign air carriers with aircraft that have a designed seating capacity of 19 or more passenger seats.

Science and technology have developed at an extremely quick pace recently and the resulting new products are astounding. As one of them, the electric cigarette enters various social spaces while the good old tobacco had been forced to accept its almost semi-legality. With constantly increasing air-traffic (smokers fly as well!), a major issue has become whether e-smoking should be allowed onboard of planes. Obviously, smokers have a hard time in this closed non-smoking environment, especially when boarding on long transatlantic flights. Nicotine junkies are often seen chain-smoking before boarding. Some passengers are ready to risk being fined and even arrested. As of recently, passenger Amy Winehouse could not resist the urge to smoke on a one hour flight and sneaked to the lavatory three times. A relevant question to ask is what do airlines think of smoking onboard of their planes?

FAA or the TSA do not prohibit e-cigs or e-cigarettes while traveling by plane. Each and every airlines has its own code of conduct which determines the usage of electronic cigarettes onboard of their carriers. Since electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco or other harmful ingredients (don’t have to be lit and do not emit smoke), it is said that they are safe for use even on board. One of the more interesting facts is that they do not emit any odor, unlike the traditional tobacco products.

American Airlines strictly prohibit the use of e-cigarettes while Ryan Air permits them and will even start to sell e-cigs onboard, catering for the passengers comfort. The carrier will start selling packs of 10 e-cigs at around $8.75 to passengers over the age of 18. BMI is another carrier which allows e-cigarettes onboard, together with some of the leading European and North African carriers.

The most probable reason why airlines prohibit ‘vaping’ e cigarettes onboard is that passengers might get scared while thinking they are normal cigarettes. Alternatively, they might be misguided to use traditional cigarettes. Once awareness about the e-cigarettes is created, using them anywhere should not be an issue and may aid in creating a smokefree atmosphere.

Air India is awaiting FDI approval regarding the legislation of e-cigs, and will hopefully achieve this by October 2012.


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