The U.S. Department of Transportation has called for electronic cigarettes to be banned from airplanes. The DOT is requesting use of the devices be prohibited as vapor from the devices can be irritating to some passengers.
Ban already practiced; officials want legal validation
The Department of Transportation, according to USA Today, is asking for a ban on using electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, vapor cigarettes or e-cigs, while flying. The DOT entered its request for a ban into the Federal Register, the official journal of the United States government. Several airlines already don’t allow passengers to use electronic cigarettes aboard airplanes.
According to CNN, at least one person has gotten in trouble for using an electronic cigarette aboard a plane. In July, a man was arrested after refusing to stop using his e-cigarette aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. The Department of Transportation, according to the Huffington Post, said in February that the devices couldn’t be used on airplanes and were going to officially be banned by law later in the year.
Irritating vapors at center of proposed ban
The issue the DOT has with the devices being used in-flight is that the “smoke” produced by the devices can be irritating to some people’s eyes and upper respiratory system, according to USA Today. The “smoke” isn’t actually smoke but rather a vapor.
Electronic cigarettes work by vaporizing a liquid that contains nicotine, flavoring agents, water and propylene glycol. The user inhales the vapor and exhales just as with an actual cigarette. Propylene glycol, according to Wikipedia, is a relatively innocuous liquid often used in shampoos, conditioners, hand sanitizers, soaps, toothpaste and deodorants, among a lot of other uses.
Part of the problem, according to the Los Angeles Times, is that many passengers have confused the vapor with actual cigarette smoke and called in flight attendants. The Navy has already banned the devices on submarines, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Using e-cigs is also banned aboard Amtrak trains.
Lesser of evils
Electronic cigarettes first became widely available in the United States in 2006, according to the Seattle P.I. However, there has been resistance to them because long-term effects of use have not been determined. The Food and Drug Administration is concerned about making them widely available without knowing what detrimental effects they might have.
There is some evidence that electronic cigarettes might help people give up traditional ones. According to Consumer Reports, a recently released study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found that out of more than 100 e-cig users interviewed, 78 percent avoided any tobacco use for the 30 days previous to the interview. Nearly 75 percent began using them to quit smoking and almost two-thirds had previously tried an FDA-approved smoking cessation aid without success. The English government, according to The Guardian, recently suggested smokers try e-cigs if it would help them kick the habit.
USA Today: http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/story/2011-09-14/DOT-proposes-ban-on-electronic-cigarettes-on-planes/50404720/1
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/electronic-cigarettes-ban_n_821828.html
Wikipedia on propylene glycol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propylene_glycol
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-electronic-cigarette-20110915,0,7376977.story
Seattle Post Intelligencer: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/US-ban-proposed-on-electronic-cigarettes-on-planes-2170122.php
Consumer Reports: http://news.consumerreports.org/health/2011/09/popularity-of-e-cigarettes-grows-but-little-still-known-about-them.html
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/14/smokeless-nicotine-cigarettes-government
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