On October 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued an interim final rule banning 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 will be effective seven days after the upcoming posting in the Federal Register, and because it addresses an immediate public safety risk PHMSA has determined that the final rule is necessary without advance notice or opportunity for public comment; the public comment period will still apply, and the interim rule may be amended based on comments received.
“We know from recent incidents that e-cigarettes in checked bags can catch fire during transport,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous. Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent safety measure,” he continued.
D.O.T. Joining ICAO on Ban
On January 22, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a safety alert urging air carriers to not allow e-cigarettes in checked bags on Domestic passenger flights. In addition, on June 15, 2015, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) enforced a similar ban following an amendment to the 2015-2016 Edition of the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air. In effect, this final rule enforces policies that Domestic carriers are most likely already following per FAA guidance and the International rules enforced by ICAO, but still allows passengers to bring e-cigarettes devices with them in the cabins of aircraft. Using the devices while on the aircraft or charging them is still prohibited.
Other Battery Powered Devices Safe…for Now
This current ruling does not include any additional restrictions on other devices containing lithium batteries or other portable electronic devices in a passenger’s carry-on or checked baggage; however, further Domestic and International restrictions in the form of new rules and/or amendments pertaining to lithium batteries are almost certainly imminent. The ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel (DGP) is currently in meetings this week in Montreal, Canada, discussing among other things, additional strategies to mitigate risks associated with the transport of lithium batteries as cargo on international passenger flights. Expect official results of the DGP meetings to be released shortly following the conclusion of the working group’s discussions on October 30th.
An electronic copy of PHMSA’s docket filing for this interim final rule can be found here.
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