Those who have discovered the benefits of electronic cigarette smoking or “vaping”, are boldly going where no smoker has gone before. They’re vaping in restaurants, bars and even airports.
My popular article, “How to Smoke Your Electronic Cigarette in Public”, has given many e-smokers the courage and ammunition to do so; however, smoking on airplanes is still a very sticky issue.
This article is updated regularly and reports findings gathered from major airlines and the FAA, as to current policies regarding vaping onboard, or carrying electronic cigarettes and liquids onboard a commercial airline. This article also includes helpful information gathered from e-cigarette vapers who have dared to smoke their e-cigarette on a flight.
The Rules of the Game
According to FAA regulations, smoking a lighted cigarette or anything that produces smoke or flame is prohibited onboard most commercial aircrafts; however, the FAA has not as yet (June 2015) issued a regulation for or against vaping electronic cigarettes on a plane, leaving that decision up to the individual airlines.
Officially, no airline openly permits vaping; however, it is NOT illegal on most airlines – it is only against company policy. There is a debatable difference between something “prohibited” and an “illegal” act. “Prohibited” usually means the act is not allowed; it’s against the rules. Doing something that is “illegal” can be considered a felony.
Company policy (and the definition of the “rules”) is enforced by your friendly (or not so friendly) flight crew and airline authorities. That means getting caught can vary between a slap on the wrist and getting slapped in jail. (Vapers on QatarAirways have reported the latter.)
When I first published this article in 2013 I found only three airlines – Japan airlines, Airtran and KLM who actually addressed the e-cigarette issue directly on their websites. Here’s what KLM had to say
“All KLM flights are non-smoking flights. Smoking is not permitted at any place or at any time on board our aircraft. This also applies to artificial cigarettes”.
Funny that they chose to use the word “artificial” rather than “electronic”.
Airtran said –
“In addition to smoking, the use of chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes are not permitted onboard any scheduled or private charter AirTran Airways flight.”
I was relieved that the fat guy sitting next to me on my next flight to Miami wasn’t going to spit tobacco into his cocktail napkin.
Japan Airlines posts this disclaimer on their site –
“Smoking is strictly prohibited through out the cabin including restrooms. The use of smoking devices without ignition such as “E-cigarette” is also prohibited as it may interrupt other passengers’ comfort or it may cause the misunderstanding among other passengers. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”
Unfortunately it is this “misunderstanding ” that stops some airlines from allowing e-cigarette use, not any FAA regulation.
Calling the Airlines Directly
Since few people back then knew anything about e-cigarettes, most airline websites did not address the issue. I called all the major airlines to inquire about their policy on the use of electronic cigarettes. True, I grew a few underarm cobwebs in the process, but my readers are worth such minor inconveniences.
Times have changed. In 2015 is was reported that there are now over 60 million vapers around the world and the public as well as airline officials are cracking down on vapers. Since flight attendants cannot easily distinguish between vapor from an ecig and a cabin fire, all major airlines have expanded their no-smoking policies to include in-flight vaping.
I fondly remember the day when airline representatives put me on hold so the agent could check with another employee about the airline’s e-cigarette policies. The word vaping had not yet made it to the dictionary.
It IS legal to bring your electronic cigarettes on-board!
Some people have been stopped by security trying to bring their e-cigarette liquid on-board. They must have either forgotten the 3oz bottle rule or their zip-lock bag was jumbo rather than quart sized. In any case, all liquids must be carried on according to airlines regulations. When I travel, I prefer taking one of my e-cig look-alikes or disposable e-cigarettes. Green Smoke , V2 cigs , and practically all those listed on our e-cigarette comparison chart offer them. You don’t have to re-fill your cartomizer with liquids that may get confiscated at airports.
More recently, airlines have advised NOT to put lithium batteries in your “checked-in” suitcase so carry your e-cigarettes in your carry-on luggage!
If you are a fearless daredevil and want to risk getting caught you had better keep a very low profile. I do know vapers who have successfully used the product on-board airlines but there have now been cases reported where vaping passengers were turned over to authorities at the destination airport. Luckily they got off with a warning. The police (or other authorities) get to decide if they’d like to charge you. Some countries are more tolerant of vapers; others, like Australia, are outright anti-vaping.
For Those Who Want to Flaunt Their ECigarettes
Since you can carry your ecig in your hand luggage, there’s no law that says you can’t flaunt it…as long as you don’t produce vapor.
Show your designer e-cigarette to your seat mate and tell them about the merits of ecigs and why it’s nothing like a cigarette. After all it has no flame, no ash and no smell. Usually people are more intrigued than annoyed. They will of course, want to see how it works, but save your demonstration for later. In case you were wondering, Green Smoke, V2 Cigs, Vapor Couture and Premium Vapes, all offer e-cigarettes in designer colors and designs so your cigarette doesn’t look real…just pretty!
Don’t flaunt your massive MOD e-cigarette on a plane. You don’t want to scare granny; and anyway, the metal or visible e-juice won’t get through security.
2- Stay Educated and share the knowledge
Another good way to reduce passenger fears and misconceptions about e-cigarettes is to know about the latest findings. Many people are fearful of second hand vapor, but studies now show that it’s poses no apparent risk to human health. Read this report on second-hand vapor.
3- Business or First Class Preferences?
There was a time, not long ago that if you were seated in business or first class, particularly on a long flight, your chances were a better at obtaining permission to use your e-cigarette, but it’s getting more difficult. I’ve only been successful if there were one or two others in the first class cabin.
If You Like Extreme Risk, There Are Ways to Vape on a Plane
4- Keep It Hidden
You can choose to be secretive. Sit in a window seat and face the window. Cover the e-cigarette with your hand. Hold the vapor for 8-10 seconds before exhaling. (This will lessen the amount of vapor exhaled). Do NOT let your vapor rise above your seat… or simply exhale into a napkin, or up your sleeve.
5- Go to the Bathroom
Many people have smoked their electronic cigarette in the lavatory, although it is against airline policy. Most smoke detectors are not yet Optical Based, (meaning they can “see” water vapor smoke). I have recently learned of an incident where the alarm did go off on Emirates Airlines. I suspect the user was vaping a very impressive vaporizer that produced massive clouds. I do not recommend it. Neither would I blow the vapor into the detector.
What’s That Smell?
E-cigarette vapor does disappear within seconds, but with the excellent new e-juices on the market, eliquid aromas are getting much more noticeable. Even if the smoke alarm doesn’t go off, the flight attendant will not be impressed by the lovely waft of chocolate when you leave the restroom.
The One Airline That Says “Yes”…. with a catch.
Ryanair, the Irish airline that “conquered” the European market with its amazing low fares, is the one airline that permits the use of electronic cigarettes, but there’s a catch – they are Ryanair’s version of the e-cigarette and you have to purchase them on-board.
In 2009 the airline started offering passengers over the age of 18, disposable “smokeless cigarettes” for about $8.75 (€6) for a pack of ten. According to Ryanair company spokesman, Stephen McNamara, when smokers can get their nicotine, everybody wins. McNamara concludes,
“As these cigarettes are smokeless, they cause no discomfort to other passengers and can ensure a more enjoyable and stress-free flight for all passengers as non-smokers will no longer have to cope with moody smokers in need of nicotine.”
Note : The Ryanair website does not mention e-cigarettes specifically. E-cigarettes are not on the list of their permitted electronic items. In trying to get an update on their smoking policy I discovered that the only telephone number available is their direct line to Ireland, which in my case would be an international call. The website does not offer a Customer Service e-mail either.
The bottom line is that most airlines disallow all cigarettes, including the smokeless and electronic ones. Unfortunately the reason for this is not because they believe electronic cigarettes pose a danger to flight systems, but simply because they produce a vapor and that may alarm passengers and flight attendants are too busy serving pretzels to distinguish between ecig vapor and an electrical fire.
The Future of Airline Policy and Vaping
Awareness of the true nature of the product and its benefits, including the benign impact on the environment is the only way this policy will change to favor vapers.
As this remarkable product becomes mainstream; as more tests prove that second-hand vapor is harmless, as more scientists submit tests that ecigs are safe to vape and as sales and positive press continues to grow, airlines may become more positive and proactive regarding the acceptance of these new devices. Airline competition is certainly on the increase and there is a whole new market of e-cigarette smokers out there.
Until then, vaping on planes comes with the risk of being turned over to authorities when you land, plus (according to recent comments added to this post) being subject to fines and future travel restrictions.
If you have successfully (or unsuccessfully) used an electronic cigarette in flight, we’d love to hear about it, so feel free to leave a comment below.
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