Suit challenges federal ban on e-cigarettes on flights

Suit challenges federal ban on e-cigarettes on flights
© Getty Images

A Department of Transportation rule banning the use of electronic cigarettes on flights is being challenged in a lawsuit filed this week.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association are suing the department over the regulation, which was issued in March and recently went into effect.


At the core of the groups’ argument is that, although DOT has the authority to prohibit smoking on planes, it does not have the right to ban e-cigarettes because the devices do not actually emit smoke.

E-cigarettes vaporize nicotine or other liquid substances that users inhale. They are often been billed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, though definitive answers about long-term health effects remain unknown.

“Congress never gave regulators the power to prohibit e-cigarette use aboard aircraft,” said Marc Scribner, a fellow at CEI. “The Department of Transportation is inventing authority it clearly does not have.  Anyone concerned about government overreach should be worried by this abuse of power.”

The Transportation Department has said the rule was meant to clarify any confusion about smoking and vaping, and some airlines had already moved to ban e-cigarettes on flights.

Supporters of the regulation argue that e-cigarettes should be treated no differently than their tobacco counterparts when it comes to prohibiting them on flights. There have also been concerns about the devices exploding in passengers’ luggage and causing small fires.

A House panel approved an amendment to a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year that would have banned vaping on planes, despite protest from Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterIssa defeats Campa-Najjar in California House race DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program MORE (R-Calif.), who puffed on a vape pen during the markup to show his colleagues that there is no burning, smoke or combustion.