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Federal agency seeks to ban electronic cigarettes on airplanes

September 14, 2011 |  1:56 pm


The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to make it clear that the ban on smoking on commercial planes includes electronic cigarettes.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Wednesday that the agency is proposing a new law that explicitly bans the smoking of electronic cigarettes on all domestic and international commercial flights in the U.S.

The current law bans the smoking of tobacco on planes but does not single out the use of electronic cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco but use a lithium battery to heat up a liquid nicotine solution, creating a vapor that can be inhaled to deliver the nicotine directly to the lungs.

For years, flight attendants have spoken out against electronic cigarettes, saying passengers and attendants have had confrontations because some passengers argue that the federal tobacco ban does not apply to electronic cigarettes.

“Airline passengers have rights, and this new rule would enhance passenger comfort and reduce any confusion surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes in flight,” LaHood said.

Under the federal rule-making process, the public has until Nov. 14 to submit comments on the proposed ban at the Federal Docket Management System. Federal officials said they could not estimate how long it will take to review the comments and prepare a final rule for adoption.

Related items:

The electronic cigarette: A photo gallery

E-Cigarettes will get FDA oversight as tobacco products

Two online studies try to clear air around e-cigarettes

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: The inventor of an electronic cigarette, Hon Lik, smokes his invention in Beiijng. Credit: AFP/Getty Images