Smokers in need of a quick nicotine fix during a long flight will no longer be allowed to use e-cigarettes starting next month, the Transportation Department announced Wednesday.
Although some individual airlines had already banned electronic cigarettes, the new rule, submitted Wednesday to the Federal Register, applies to passengers on all U.S. and foreign airlines with flights within, into or out of the country, the department said. The ban takes effect 30 days from publication March 4 in the Federal Register.
Smoking traditional cigarettes has been banned on airliners for 30 years.
“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,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
A House committee agreed last month to ban e-cigarettes, or vaping, under a proposal from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. The department said it was taking action to avoid any confusion about smoking and vaping. The e-cigarettes vaporize nicotine or other liquid substances for the user to inhale.
“Just last week, we saw frightening footage of an electronic cigarette battery exploding in a man's pocket, causing second degree burns,” Norton said. “If such a fire occurred on an airplane, it could be catastrophic."
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., urged the department in 2014 to ban e-cigarettes after a fire a Logan International Airport was caused by one in a passenger’s luggage. News stories described the devices exploding and causing fires in the last week in Florida and Kentucky, he said.
“A passenger up in the skies shouldn’t have to worry about the cabin going up in smoke because an e-cigarette has sparked a fire,” Markey said.
In October, the department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a rule prohibiting passengers and airline crews from carrying the battery-powered devices in checked luggage because of concerns the batteries could spark fires.