Federal Appeals Court Uphold Rule Banning Vaping On US Airplanes Federal Appeals Court Uphold Rule Banning Vaping On US Airplanes

A federal appeals court last week upheld Obama era administration regulation rule banning vaping on commercial airplanes. This also includes in the airport and at the luggage claim. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been enforcing this rule since its inception. Arguments by a free-market group and an e-cigarette and vaping advocacy groups claimed that the DOT exceeded its legal authority. It also showed how it used bad science to justify the rule. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected arguments but it was was a divided vote.

The decision closes this chapter for now on the federal debate over how to regulate vaping on airplanes. Even though these devices have been shown to be less harmful than traditional cigarette smoking, regulators and some politicians seek to hold them to the same standards.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has been one of the most vocal e-cigarette advocates. During a recent House debate about whether to codify the airplane vaping ban into law, Hunter famously vaped in order to show that it is not harmful. It was the second time he has vaped during a committee meeting and this drew a lot of attention.

While Congress banned smoking on short flights in the 1980s and extended the rule to all flights in 2000 the Obama administration’s DOT rule included vaping under its prohibition umbrella. Officials also cited studies about the health effects of second-hand tobacco vapor.

This is infuriated to scientist and to the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association. They have proven these facts weren’t scientifically sound, but it didn’t matter. By a 2-to-1 ruling, the D.C. court rejected those arguments. The case notes simply stated that the DOT acted reasonably and within the authority. They gave this order and refused to listen to experts and let the true facts be known.

By a 2-to-1 ruling, the D.C. court rejected those arguments. The case notes simply state that the DOT acted reasonably and within the authority. They gave this order and refused to listen to experts and let the true facts be known.

The judges from the federal appeals court admitted that the scientific studies “may have flaws, but they tend to show that vaping in confined aircraft could harm non-users.” They went on to base their decision on the  ‘involuntary nature’ of secondhand exposure on an aircraft. They also said where individuals are often assigned seats without choice, this could pose a health risk. They said the DOT gave particular weight to these health risks and acted appropriately. The judges also noted that all United States airlines have already banned vaping.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg dissented from the ruling, saying that lawmakers writing the original smoking ban in 1987 did not mean for “smoking” to include vaping. He said this did not exist at the time.  He saw through the lies and propaganda of big tobacco companies. It is too bad the others didn’t see the serious harm their ruling could cause.

In a statement following the ruling, Sam Kazman, general counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the court redefined “smoking” in a “dangerous” way. “It allows the commonly-understood language of Congress’s 30-year old non-smoking statute to be stretched into a ban on vaping.” This is shocking due to the fact vaping involves no combustion and produces no smoke.

One can only hope that future backslides in policy and regulations do not continue to happen for those who vape. With the future of the US market hanging in the balance of courts and policymakers, this couldn’t come at a worse time. We need to have sound science be the basis of our policies. 

Basing rules and regulations on misinformation only create more of a mess to clean up later.  Will this ruling be appealed or make its way to the supreme court someday, time will tell? However, whatever will happen will not be quick, that we know for certain. Just like if you won’t be able to vape on a plane in the US, you can’t, without breaking the law.

This is surely disappointing for those watching this from across the country. It every state vapers faces regulations. If not on a local level, it is from the state, and now the federal policies are being set on misinformation and illogical reasoning. Defining vaping as being the same as smoking cigarettes is bad policy. If there are more compelling reasons to restrict or limit vaping on planes, then let those be the reason policy is made.

Rulings like these distract from the good news coming out relating to vaping. Repeated studies show that vaping helps people quit smoking. For those who smoke cigarettes the risk of serious health problems are real. The longer they smoke, the more these risks become a reality. Quitting indefinitely is a goal even for the smokers but it is one of the toughest habits to give up.  

Vaping is an alternative that needs to be pushing and encouraging. Passing restrictive regulations are not moving our country in the right direction.  We need to reverse this trend. Call and write your representatives today on both the state and local levels to voice your support for the vaping industry. If you delay or wait much longer, it may be too late.

David

Katie Bercham - CocktailNerd Editor

Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 5 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community.