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Transportation Dept. bans e-cigarettes on airlines

Consumer Reports News: March 08, 2011 03:08 PM

U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood has begun informing airlines that the Federal Aviation Administration’s ban on smoking onboard commercial aircraft extends to e-cigarettes as well. This follows a Senate hearing in June 2010 when a senior Department of Transportation official stated that although the current ban already covers these products, the DOT will “amend the existing general regulatory language” to explicitly prohibit the practice.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution to create a vapor that is inhaled. Last year, our colleagues at  reported “the jury is still out” on their safety.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2009 that “laboratory analysis of electronic cigarette samples has found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze.” And in recent years the World Health Organization has stated there is “no scientific evidence to confirm the product's safety and efficacy.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who wrote the original law banning smoking on domestic flights in 1987, has been in the forefront of improving the air quality in airline cabins. He first called for a ban on e-cigarettes in 2009 and recently added a provision to the FAA Reauthorization Act that the FAA “begin research and the development of sensor and air cleaning technology to ensure the air in a plane cabin is safe.”—William J. McGee

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