Think tank challenges ban on using e-cigs during flights

Think tank challenges ban on using e-cigs during flights
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A think tank challenging a federal ban on the use of electronic cigarettes during flights has filed its opening brief in the lawsuit.

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association are suing the Department of Transportation (DOT) over the regulation, which was published in March and prohibits passengers from using e-cigarettes while onboard planes.

Congress first granted the DOT the authority to issue rules prohibiting in-flight smoking in 1989.

But the groups argue that the agency 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 then inhale. They are often billed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, though definitive answers about long-term health effects remain unknown.

“Congress made clear that its anti-smoking ban applies to combusted tobacco products and smoke, neither of which have anything to do with the use of e-cigarettes,” said Marc Scribner, a fellow at CEI. “The DOT’s attempt to illegally rewrite the law poses a far greater danger to the traveling public than e-cigarette vapor.”

The challengers’ opening brief against the regulation was filed late Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the DOT will offer a response by Sept. 7.

The DOT has maintained that the rule was meant to clarify any confusion about smoking and vaping on planes, since most airlines had already voluntarily prohibited the use of e-cigarettes during flights.

But that’s why CEI has said the DOT rule was unnecessary. The group also argues that the DOT has not offered any evidence that e-cigarettes harm a passenger’s health.

Supporters of the regulation believe e-cigarettes should be treated no differently than their tobacco counterparts when it comes to prohibiting them on flights.

There have also been growing concerns about the devices exploding in passengers’ luggage and causing small fires, which is why the DOT moved to ban e-cigarettes in checked baggage.

“Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous, and a number of recent incidents have shown that e-cigarettes in checked bags can catch fire during transport," Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE said at the time. "Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent and important safety measure."