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November 12, 2015

FAA extinguishes E Cigarettes in time for the Holidays

by: Mary F. Schiavo

What took so long is an issue for another day, but the FAA has finally acted to keep electronic cigarettes and lithium ion batteries out of checked baggage. Why? No, it’s not because Americans will pack airplanes by the millions this Thanksgiving. It’s because e-cigs can catch fire. Here are the new rules and guidelines:

New electronic cigarette rules

Electronic cigarettes are already banned from use in flight. You do not have to tolerate someone sucking on one on your plane. Electronic cigarettes are nicotine delivery devices not to mention the nasty chemicals they are inhaling. As a side note, a recent study found that the liquid used to create the “vape” in e-cigs contains nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavorings, and about 69% of sweet-flavored e-liquids or “juices” contain diacetyl and/or acetyl propionyl. I believe that you as an innocent bystander just trying to get to grandmas for gravy should not be subjected to an unwanted dose of carcinogenic drugs from a stranger.  

But now the U.S. Department of Transportation prohibits passengers and crewmembers from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, personal vaporizers, electronic nicotine delivery systems/ENDS) in checked baggage and prohibits passengers and crewmembers from charging the devices or batteries on board planes.

"We know from recent incidents that e-cigarettes in checked bags can catch fire during transport," said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, "fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous.”

A jumbo jet of an understatement.

Passengers may continue to carry e-cigarettes for personal use in carry-on baggage or on their person but may not use them on flights. The Department's ban on smoking of tobacco products on passenger flights includes the use of e-cigarettes. Nevertheless, to prevent passenger or crewmember confusion, the department has proposed to amend its existing airline smoking rule to explicitly ban use of e-cigarettes aboard aircraft.

New lithium ion battery rules

The FAA has also asked carriers to inform passengers that spare lithium batteries are prohibited from checked baggage (including checked baggage at the gate) and refer passengers to FAA’s Pack Safe website for additional information during ticket purchase and check-in processes. The rules include:

  • Each spare lithium battery must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (e.g., by placement in original retail packaging, by otherwise insulating terminals by taping over exposed terminals, or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch).
  • Spare batteries must not come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry and take steps to prevent crushing, puncturing, or pressure on the battery.
  • Batteries must not exceed the allowable quantity and size limitations (refer to 49 CFR § 175.10).

Will the airlines actually check your bags? Not likely. But no one wants to have an in-flight fire in the baggage hold. Furthermore, since your bag must travel on the same plane you do, you have every incentive to follow the new FAA guidelines and anticipated airlines rules.    

Good luck out there in the holiday travel jungle.