Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 4, 2015

Ban E-Cig Electronic Cigarettes on Airplanes, Senators Say

Boxer is one of seven Democrats urging an immediate ban on electronic cigarettes on airplanes.

Boxer is one of seven Democrats urging an immediate ban on electronic cigarettes on airplanes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s time to ban electronic cigarettes on airplanes, seven Democratic senators said in a new letter to the Transportation Department chastising the Obama administration for failing to act.

The signatories on a letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx point to a proposed rule banning electronic cigarettes that’s been pending since 2011.

“This rule when finalized will ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes on both domestic and foreign air carriers to and from the United States. It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized,” the senators wrote.

Democrats Barbara Boxer of California, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts signed on to the latest in what’s been a series of missives about the “e-cigs.”

The letter appears below:

Dear Secretary Foxx:
We are writing to you with great concern about protecting consumer health on commercial flights. While many major carriers have decided to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, federal regulations still allow these products to be used during flight.

The Department of Transportation first published proposed rules to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft on September 15, 2011 (Docket No. DOT–OST–2011–0044). This rule when finalized will ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes on both domestic and foreign air carriers to and from the United States. It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized.

As the Department’s own preamble in 2011 noted, “Releasing a vapor that may contain harmful substances or respiratory irritants in a confined space, especially to those who are at a higher risk, is contrary to the purpose and intent of the statutory and regulatory ban on smoking aboard aircraft.” It also notes that the purpose of such a regulation “is to prevent introduction of a new potential source of contamination to the cabin environment that could potentially endanger the welfare of nonsmokers who are now protected from all such exposure.”

Numerous electronic cigarette companies have marketed their products as offering the freedom to break the rules or smoke in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, such as airplanes. We have attached some examples of past advertisements that feature or imply the use of electronic cigarettes on airplanes.

Please act immediately to finalize these rules, and respond with an exact date when regulations will be published and when electronic cigarettes will finally be banned on commercial flights.

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