Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Column Archive |  On Twitter: J Huget and MisFits  |  Fitness & Nutrition News  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed
Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 02/28/2011

Should e-cigarettes be allowed on planes?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Since their introduction to the United States in 2006, e-cigarettes have been marketed as smoking-cessation tools.

That's controversial, as so little is known about electronic cigarettes -- which produce a nicotine-infused vapor instead of tobacco smoke -- and their potential effects on people's health. It's possible that inhaling the vapor is way better for you than inhaling cigarette smoke and that the mere handling of the cigarette-shaped device could help smokers lessen their dependence on real cigarettes.

On the other hand, that vapor could be bad for people, delivering nicotine in a harmful way, and e-cigarettes could possibly be a gateway to real cigarettes.

Part of the reason we don't know the answers is that these e-smokes are relatively new to the country and thus not yet well studied. Plus, the federal government hasn't quite figured out how to regulate e-smokes, leaving manufacturers relatively free to say what they want about them.

As this report notes, the controversy has taken a new turn as people have begun using e-cigarettes on airplanes -- and posting videos of themselves in the act.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says that's not allowed and apparently intends to impose a ban on the devices' use on airplanes this spring.

But should it be?

One danger that real cigarettes pose but e-cigs don't is the threat of starting a fire. And while smoke tends to gather in an enclosed space until the air is thick, it's not clear that the vapor from e-cigarettes creates the same foggy effect.

I sympathize with people who get nervous when they fly; I imagine that using an e-cigarette might help calm them down. Whether I want to be sitting next to the person "smoking" one is a different question.

What do you think? Should e-cigarettes be allowed on U.S. airplanes, as they are on some European airlines? Or should they, like real cigarettes, be barred from the cabin?

Take a moment to vote in today's poll:

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | February 28, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Alcohol and Drugs, Cancer, Environmental Toxins, Smoking, Travel Health  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is that right? White bread versus whole wheat -- again
Next: Breast cancer decline stalls


I'm generally against regulations on anything. But the problem is that electronic cigarettes are being regulated by patchwork form across the country in towns, cities and counties.

It would probably be helpful, therefore, if a federal agency took some action - though a ban is a little draconian in my opinion. I follow this on my blog at

Posted by: admquilton | February 28, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Actually, scientists know a lot more about what's in the vapor than they do about all the ingredients in smoke. Dr. Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand tested e-cigarette vapor for over 50 priority- listed cigarette smoke toxicants. None were found. Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health reviewed the reserach on e-cigarettes and concluded, “A preponderance of the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products.” Vapor does not create a lingering cloud. It dissapates very quickly since it does not contain tar or particulates. In fact, I have used an e-cigarette on planes and the people around me never even noticed. Surveys show that 90% of e-cigarette users who directly inhale the vapor are reporting that their health has improved. How could the remaining vapor that they exhale possibly endanger the health of bystanders? It makes no sense.

Posted by: vocalek | February 28, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

E-cigs are NOT marketed as a smoking cessation tool because FDA regulations prevent vendors from marketing them as such. Since the FDA believes that smoking is a disease, no manufacturer can make therapeutic claims about their product. The FDA is more concerned with semantics than saving lives.

Tobacco smoke lingers in the air...vapor dissipates within a few seconds. You want proof? Get 1 cigarette smoker and 1 vaper in a room together and ask them to do their thing. It's pretty simple science don't you think?

I don't really care about the DOT's decision one way or another, but it's quite clear that their decision was based on lessening the load on flight attendants having to explain to the other passengers that the e-cig emits vapor, NOT smoke and that vapor will not harm anyone in the least.

Posted by: rick88 | February 28, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Banning should always be a last resort based on definitive information that determines the presence of harm. It should not be the default, which seems to be the current case in supposedly free societies. Decisions and policy should not be based on hysteria or fear mongering, or on a worse case extreme scenario. There is no boogeyman here, it's just technology people.

Posted by: NoMoreSmokes | February 28, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

The hundreds of thousands of people who use E cigarettes know they an effective way to quit tobacco. The ECF E cigarette forum by itself has over forty thousand members most of whom have drastically cut down or quit smoking. That would make tens of thousands who quit and it would be unrealistic to think that a majority or even large percentage of those who quit are members. We really need a more realistic and comprehensive study.

Anyway for those who want to quit this is good place for information and support.

In the real world.
Deaths related to smoking 400,000 and up.
Deaths from electronic cigarettes 0. That's right zero.
No one including the FDA has found anything in quantities that harm us.
The vapor from electronic cigarettes dissipates almost immediately. It does not linger in the air like smoke

Posted by: Traver | February 28, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"...e-cigarettes have been marketed as smoking-cessation tools."

It depends upon how you define "smoking cessation." Do you mean "nicotine cessation?" Then you are wrong - very few (if any) companies claimed to be nicotine cessation tools. As far as "smoking cessation," so long as you define it as something that you do INSTEAD of smoking and not as nicotine cessation, then it's a no brainer. THINK. If you use an e-cigarette INSTEAD of smoking, then you have, in fact, quit smoking! But the FDA says the companies cannot "prove" they are smoking cessation tools because they haven't been proven as NICOTINE cessation tools. What sense does that make? Whether you quit nicotine or not, if you're using e-cigarettes and not tobacco cigarettes, you've quit smoking! Nicotine does NOT cause cancer!

It's "possible" that inhaling the vapor is way better for you than inhaling cigarette smoke??

Are you kidding? Three of the ingredients in e-cigarettes are recognized as safe by the FDA and the fourth - nicotine - while also in cigarettes is also approved for use in Nicotrol Inhalers. Compare that to the thousands of deadly chemicals in cigarettes!

A "gateway to real cigarettes??"

Let's think that statement through. Would someone who is using a relatively safe product, which tastes good, doesn't smell, is affordable and doesn't make them unhealthy suddenly decide to use dangerous, smelly, expensive and foul-tasting (to someone who has never smoked) cigarettes instead? Where is the logic in that? Why do people have this false idea that all nicotine use will lead to smoking - especially when all scientific research shows the exact opposite?

"...we don't know the answers is that these e-smokes are relatively new to the country and thus not yet well studied."

As Vocalek points out - there IS a lot we know about e-cigarettes. Even the FDA testing showed that the brands they tested didn't contain toxic levels of any chemicals and carcinogens were so low (the same as the FDA-approved nicotine patch) that they wouldn't cause cancer. We don't know the long-term effects, but the fact that there hasn't been anything dangerous found in them and no one has gotten sick or died using them since 2003, how likely is it that they'll suddenly be deadly in 20 years?

"'s not clear that the vapor from e-cigarettes creates the same foggy effect."

Did you do any of your own research for this article or just copy and paste from previous news reports? It's common knowledge that the vapor dissapates quickly and doesn't linger in the air among users. Maybe talking to an actual e-cigarette user or two would have made it more clear for you.

"Whether I want to be sitting next to the person "smoking" one is a different question."

Again - how about meeting an actual user and experiencing the vapor for yourself before writing about it? It's like writing a movie review based on other people's comments rather than seeing the movie yourself!

Posted by: Krisitnnm | February 28, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I, for one, would rather sit next to a calm rational passenger that vapes vs a passenger who is itching from their nicotine patch and fighting off road rage emotions produced from nicotine withdrawl.

I applaud all electronic cigarette users. They have discovered a way to make life easier for all around them, including for themselves. There is no second hand smoke, no ashes, no stink, no jonesing, and they are very passionate about keeping off of regular cigarettes.
All airplanes should have a vaping section if nothing else, so they can stay relaxed even during a long bumpy scarey ride.

and yes, I vape... but I don't ride in airplanes!! No way!!! At least, not if I can't vape away my fears....

Posted by: umahboomah | February 28, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I think they should be able to. Even if they don't, a person could probably just cup the ecig and get away with it anyway, but if too many people are around, they could go to the latrine. There's no smell, so not like they are going to get caught. I got mine at I really enjoy vaping, and people that don't know the addiction of tobacco, should really be FOR the use of electronic cigarettes. They are healthier for individuals that use them and also for the people around them.

Posted by: SmokeeyJoe | February 28, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse

E-cigarettes do not harm anyone, and they are not offensive to non-smokers. I stopped smoking over 10 months ago using an e-cigarette. I didn't smoke cigarettes around my friends or family when I used tobacco because of the risks and bad odor. Now I use my e-cigarette around them all, and not one of them has an objection despite the fact that none of them smoke! In fact, my husband actually enjoys the (faint) odor of one of the e-liquids I use, and has stated this several times. I have used my E-cigarette several times on flights, and no one even seemed to notice. I know a few people who have respiratory problems who have switched to e-cigarettes and had an improvement in respiratory function, so if they were really bad, do you think this would happen? This is not smoke, and should not be looked at in the same way.

Posted by: KDKfreefromsmoke | March 1, 2011 12:48 AM | Report abuse

Glycolized vapor is a known germicide used in air sanitizers like Ozium to clean the air in elementary schools and hospitals. To date, no study has found ANY substance that is known to be toxic or carcinogenic in the minute quantities of vapor produced by an e-cig and there have been ZERO reports of severe adverse effects.

For those of us who have already switched from smoking to smoke-free alternatives, a ban would have no effect on our ability to use them without disturbing anyone. If, on the other hand, rather than forbidding people from using smoke-free products in places where smoking is not allowed--why not use the fact that smoke-free alternatives like e-cigarettes do not have any of the dangers of combustion and smoking as an incentive to convince smokers to switch??

Although greedy Pharmaceutical companies don't want you know this, the truth is that adults who switch to smoke-free alternatives experience nearly identical health improvements and are actually LESS likely to resume smoking as people who quit using all forms of nicotine.

If you want to reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke as you are entering or leaving the airport, simply give adults who are otherwise unable or unwilling to completely stop using recreational nicotine products the CHOICE to use SMOKE-FREE alternatives like e-cigarettes.

Posted by: DevilsThadvocate | March 1, 2011 1:01 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather be next to a calm e-cig user than someone spazzing out on Chantix.------

Posted by: generalsn | March 1, 2011 1:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Respiratory Therapist and I believe that a smoker and the second smoke hazards are greatly improved by use of the e-cigaret however, confined spaces on a plane are no place for any vapors. We must have a lot more studies on the effects on second hand inhalation and air handling effects. There are plenty of alternatives for the smokers to use on a plane if they cannot tolerate the loss of this drug. MKemerer Dublin Ohio

Posted by: mkemerer | March 3, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

The US DOT unilaterally decides 'that is not allowed' but yet feels the need to hastily create rules that didn't exist before so that they can say, "See, I told you so, it's not allowed!".

When did they hire Professor Peabody and his 'Way back machine'? Probably the average citizen wouldn't notice what happened but some people actually pay attention.

Two different courts have told the FDA that their actions regarding the interception of shipments destined for sales and distribution by US companies was 'UNLAWFUL'.

Do we also need the courts to tell the DOT that they have nothing to base their NEW rules on other than not wanting to have to explain to the ignorant masses that vaping is NOT smoking?

For some time the US seems to have been sinking to the lowest common denominator, ignorance, but the fall seems to have accelerated recently.

Strangely enough, or maybe not so strange considering the maturity of their societies, many Asian airlines actually promote the use of e-cigs but their mature and adult viewpoint will likely get overridden by the US's nanny state which seems bent on the idea that ignorance is somehow a guaranteed right in its constitution.

Posted by: craigs1 | March 3, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

The DOT should rethink this because, if they ban ecigs, then they are going to have to ban asthma inhalers too. Its the same sort of vapour. Also, they should ban all those puffing air fresheners in rest rooms and ban passengers from using soap or cosmetics - they all contain PG like ecigs and inhalers.
While they are at it, please can they ban hamburgers, beer and candy because these contain 3-Ethylpyridine which Prue Talbots research has identified as the most dangerous chemical in cigarette smoke here

Posted by: HillBill | March 3, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Very intersting article

Posted by: hanagah | March 7, 2011 4:59 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting article. However, speaking for the electronic cigarette company Totally Wicked, we have never marketed e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools. Indeed Managing Director Jason Cropper has stated "our products are not a healthier alternative or a quit smoking aid, we are distributors of RNDS products (Recreational Nicotine Delivery Systems).”

Posted by: JoanneGallacher | March 7, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company