Why Am I Not Allowed to Vape on Airplanes?

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E-cigarettes are fantastic travel companions, so why can’t I vape on airplanes? Electronic Cigarettes are meeting an overwhelmingly unwelcome fate on at least one mode of transportation: airplanes. What’s the deal with the no-vape situation in the skies? Ahead, we unpack all of the information.


Vaping is Prohibited During Commercial Flights in the US

No vaping sign

Here’s the bottom line: In the absence of an official ban from either the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it was previously up to airlines themselves to decide how to handle allowing passengers to use their e-cig on airplanes; however, as of March 2016, the use of electronic cigarettes inflight is now prohibited.

Why the cold shoulder? It mostly comes down to two major issues: the uphill battle for adequate air quality and the misleading information surrounding e-cigarette safety. When Congress passed its series of in-air cigarette bans between 1987 and 2000, the response was largely supportive. Flight attendants — many of whom had been pushing for the ban for decades — felt more comfortable working long shifts in a tobacco-free environment, and an increasingly cigarette-leery consumer base was happy to avoid being in such close quarters with secondhand smoke. You couldn’t, after all, simply step to the side to avoid a group of in-flight smokers, so it’s difficult to argue against the benefits of those bans, especially when you consider how small an airplane cabin actually is.


Why Are People Against Vaping During Flights?

Guy blowing huge vapor cloud

What’s happened, of course, is that many travelers have developed something of an eagle eye for rule-breaking smokers. E-cigarette vapor does look quite a bit like smoke to the untrained eye, and both flight attendants and passengers are on high alert for anyone ignoring the rules. Even if they weren’t, however, the second issue would still persist: the general confusion surrounding how e-cigarettes impact not only the vapers but also the passengers surrounding them. Surveys show that a number of people assume e-cigarettes to be just as harmful as real cigarettes, so the presence of any vapor — even if its coming from a nicotine-free e-cig — creates an information disconnect for anyone who hasn’t read the array of studies that objectively examine the situation.

Related: Studies Show E-Cig Vapor is Less Harmful than Tobacco Smoke

Can I Bring My E-Cig on a Plane?

Guy in thought with hand on chin

Even though you can no longer vape inflight, you can still bring your vaping device with you on your flight. In fact, electronic cigarettes are now prohibited from checked luggage, so if you are traveling with your e-cig, be sure to pack it in your carry-on luggage. This new rule came about with increased reports of vaping devices activating and overheating within checked luggage, which in turn created a fire risk. Some flights even had to go through emergency landings to tend to a vaping device that had caught fire. As a result, the FAA decided it was safer for passengers to transport their e-cigs in carryon luggage so if a problem with an overheating battery does arise, it can be addressed immediately with less chances of flight interruption.

Related: No More E-Cigs in Checked Luggage

It’s Also All About Common Courtesy

Businessman holding an e-cigarette

All that said, there’s also a do-unto-others issue that comes into play with vaping an e-cig on airplanes. Let’s be honest: Airplanes aren’t the most pleasant of places. Because we’re all fighting for every inch of personal space, even the tiniest infringement can feel like a major offense. So when someone dares to push the boundaries of that mutual contract, it tends to upset others. Add visual vapor, fragrance, and misinformation into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for some inflight arguments.

Courtesy is key here; just as you’d prefer if the person in front of you didn’t recline their seat directly into your lap five minutes after takeoff, other passengers might prefer that you not surround them with vapor for the entirety of the flight, however harmless that vapor might be. When it comes to air travel, we’re all in this together. So save the e-cigarettes for when the flight has landed if your destination airport allows vaping — at least while you’re in the States.