If you're thinking of using an e-cigarette on a flight next month, you might need to hold off.
On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation announced a final rule banishing the use of the devices on commercial aircraft, including charters. The rule will go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which will be Friday. That would make its implementation date April 3, a Sunday.
You can download and read the rule here.
“This final rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used onboard airplanes,” Transportation Secretary
"The department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both."
The DOT rule banning smoking on U.S. carriers was thought to cover e-cigarettes, but because it did not do so explicitly — the no-smoking ban became a rule about 25 years ago, before the widespread advent of e-cigarettes — some advocates insisted they were not disallowed.
Detractors say the devices release harmful chemicals and represent a fire hazard.
E-cigarettes are not allowed in checked baggage because of concern about the lithium ion battery that powers the device. The heating element is the same reason that MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) aren't allowed on some planes.
But advocates say that studies about whether e-cigs are harmful are incomplete because the nicotine delivery devices haven't been in widespread use long enough for a meaningful study.
A National Health Interview survey said 12.6% of U.S. adults had tried an e-cig. Some use them as as smoking cessation aids. But some physicians instead recommend nicotine patches or gum until they know more about the liquids, including the vapors, in the devices.
The use of e-cigarettes has grown among youth, the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research reported in a study that involved researchers from the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and Georgia State University.
In 2011, 79,000 middle- and high-school students said they used e-cigarettes. By 2013, that number had more than tripled. Of those who had tried them, nearly 44% said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes.
"Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States," the CDC says on its website.
"Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke."