Senate Dems want to ban e-cigarettes on airplanes

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A group of Democratic senators called Tuesday for the Department of Transportation to end an "unacceptable" delay in implementing a ban on electronic cigarettes on airplanes.

The senators said Tuesday in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the agency is two years behind schedule in finalizing rules that would ban the use of e-cigarettes during flights.

"While many major carriers have decided to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, federal regulations still allow these products to be used during flight," the lawmakers wrote.

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"The Department of Transportation first published proposed rules to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft on September 15, 2011," the senators continued. "It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized."

The letter was signed by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned airline passengers from smoking traditional cigarettes during flights since the late 1990's.
 
The lawmakers argued that e-cigarette makers were taking advantage of the agency's slow pace in applying a similar ban to electronic smoking devices.

"Numerous electronic cigarette companies have marketed their products as offering the freedom to break the rules or smoke in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, such as airplanes," they wrote.

The senators called for Foxx to quickly finalizing the rules ban e-cigarettes on flights.

"Please act immediately to finalize these rules, and respond with an exact date when regulations will be published and when electronic cigarettes will finally be banned on commercial flights," they wrote.

The Hill is checking with the transportation department for a response to the senators' letter.