PhotoMost airlines have already banned e-cigarettes on their flights and now the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has made it official -- e-cigs are banned on all U.S. and foreign carriers flying into and from the United States.

“This ... rule is important because it protects airline passengers from unwanted exposure to aerosol fumes that occur when electronic cigarettes are used onboard airplanes,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “The Department took a practical approach to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both.”

The rule clarifies that the airline smoking rule prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and similar products in addition to the existing prohibition on the smoking of tobacco products.

The DOT said it considered its current ban on smoking to be sufficient to cover electronic cigarettes, but since it didn't explicity define "smoking," there was room for confusion. 

Harmful chemicals

Electronic cigarettes cause concern because studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol can contain a number of harmful chemicals. The DOT said it was particularly concerned that vulnerable populations (such as children, the elderly, and passengers with respiratory issues) would be exposed to the aerosol within a confined space, without the opportunity to avoid the chemicals.

This rule explicitly bans the use of electronic cigarettes in all forms, including but not limited to electronic cigars, pipes, and devices designed to look like everyday products such as pens.  The ban does not include the use of medical devices such as a nebulizers.

The Department also extended the ban on smoking, including electronic cigarettes, to all charter (nonscheduled) flights of U.S. carriers and foreign air carriers where a flight attendant is a required crewmember.

The complete text of the final rule is available at, docket number DOT-OST-2011-0044.

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