A Department of Transportation ruling banning the use of e-cigarettes on flights is being challenged in a lawsuit brought on by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association. Both organizations argue that the Department of Transportation does not have the authority to ban e-cigarettes, because the devices do not actually emit smoke. Although long-term health effects remain unknown, e-cigarettes are promoted as being a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. “Congress never gave regulators the power to prohibit e-cigarette use aboard aircraft. The Department of Transportation is inventing authority it clearly does not have. Anyone concerned about government overreach should be worried about this abuse of power.” Said Marc Scribner, a fellow at CEI. Supporters of the ban argue that e-cigarettes should be treated no differently than traditional cigarettes, citing recent concerns over random explosions caused by unstable lithium ion batteries. The ban was proposed as an amendment to the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act, which has banned traditional cigarette smoking on flights for the past thirty years. “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, Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Just last week, we saw frightening footage of an electronic cigarette battery exploding in a man’s pocket, causing second degree burns. If such a fire occurred on an airplane, it could be catastrophic.” Such a fire actually did occur in 2014 at Logan International Airport, when an e-cigarette battery exploded in a passenger’s luggage. The incident occurred while the bag was in the cargo hold of the aircraft, and caused a fire that forced the plane to be evacuated, and prompted a ban on storing electronic smoking devices of any kind in checked luggage. This piece of anti-vaping legislation goes hand in hand with recent FDA proposals to regulate the use and sale of electronic smoking devices, making this year a tough one for the tobacco industry, which last suffered a severe blow in 1990 when congress banned smoking on all domestic airline flights lasting six hours or less.
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