Airlines/ICAO React to e-cigarette Storage on Passenger Flights

As of June 15, 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has banned passengers and crew from storing electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other battery-powered electronic smoking devices in checked bags on passenger airlines.  This final ruling follows an advisory warning to the airline industry issued by ICAO in December 2014 regarding safety concerns related to electronic smoking devices.  Incidents had been reported where e-cigarettes were accidentally activated or left on that resulted in fires in checked baggage; one of these incidents occurred on August 9, 2014, at Boston’s Logan Airport when a passenger plane had to be evacuated after a bag in the plane’s cargo hold caught on fire.

The new ICAO ruling requires that passengers possessing electronic smoking devices carry them in the cabin of the airplane instead of storing them in checked luggage so that any safety concerns can be immediately dealt with, but prohibits recharging these devices while on board the plane.  However, if you are a user of electronic smoking products don’t plan on being able to use them on a domestic flight anytime soon.

Currently all of the major U.S. based airlines prohibit the use of these e-cigarette devices inside the cabin (including the lavatory) of the aircraft.  This is because the airlines are following guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) even though ICAO doesn’t currently explicitly prohibit using electronic smoking devices in the cabins of commercial aircraft.  The FAA maintains that the current smoking ban (since 1988) includes the use of electronic “smoking” devices; however, the companies who manufacture the e-cigarettes argue that their products do not burn anything, therefore, they do not qualify as a “smoking” device. Proposed regulatory language changes are inevitable in the near future as government agencies continue their goal of protecting consumer health and safety on commercial flights.

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