Taking Your Vape Gear on An Airplane
In the good old days of the vaping revolution where the industry enjoyed virtually unfettered freedom, users of electronic cigarettes experienced an equal amount of autonomy and sovereignty. Since the general population did not know what ecig devices were, no road blocks were put in place to hinder their use. In that short, but enchanting period of time, e-cigarettes could be used inside buildings, restaurants, trains, busses, and even airplanes. In fact, many recall bystanders commenting on how delicious the smell of the vapor was. However, those days are long gone, and the vaping industry has been hit with an unrelenting series of rules, regulations, and restrictions regarding their use, sale, manufacture, and virtually all aspects related to vaping. This, of course, includes using and carrying the devices on an airplane. As with fundamentally all characteristics of vaping, taking your vape gear on an airplane, as well as using ecigs within the aircraft, was wholly unrestricted and unregulated until recently. As of the date this article is being written, vaping in an airplane is illegal and can be punishable by a fine of up to $3,000. Although due to the fact that vapor is virtually odorless and dissipates very rapidly, many get away with vaping in the airplane lavatory, or sneaking a hit or two when no one is looking. However, most modern lavatory smoke detectors can now sense vapor and may alert airline personnel.
Transporting your vape gear is also regulated to some extend, but has not been banned as of yet. Initially, any and all vaping hardware could be transported either in your carry-on or check-in luggage without any hindrances of any sort. Then, for a brief period of time, travelers were asked to pack their electronic cigarette devices within their checked baggage. This was presumably in an effort to deter people from vaping on the airplane discretely. As time has passed, however, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, now requires travelers to store their electronic cigarette equipment in their carry-on bags rather their checked luggage.
The reason for the change in policy is due to the fact that the lithium-ion batteries used to power e-cig devices can overheat in checked bags, thereby risking combustion. There have been several cases of suitcases catching fire while in flight due to the battery’s vulnerability to excessive heat. For example, earlier in 2016, a Hawaiian Airlines flight was force to make an emergency landing when an e-cigarette battery sparked a fire within the luggage compartment, requiring the captain to activate the aircraft’s fire-suppression system. When batteries are stored in the overhead compartment, however, they are kept substantially cooler, thereby dramatically reducing the chance of explosion or fire.
In addition to regulations regarding using and carrying electronic cigarettes on airplanes, the authorities have also set rules vis-à-vis charging the devices as well. Due to the same fear of explosion and/or potential fire, the Department of Transportation has also made it illegal to charge electronic cigarette batteries within the airplane as well. Of course, this threat is not limited to e-cigarette batteries, but all devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. In fact, the potential hazard has become so troublesome that Delta and Alaskan Airlines have both begun including fire containment bags, which can be used to contain a fire when a laptop, cell phone, battery pack, or any other lithium-ion battery overheats and catches fire.
Although not currently a rule, responsible travelers should certainly consider storing their electronic cigarette devices, as well as their mobile phones and tablets, in charging bags, which are engineered to contain batteries that explode or are otherwise set aflame. Products, such as the Efest Lipo Safety Charging Bag, are available and represent an inexpensive way in which to travel with lithium-ion batteries sensibly. They are made with fiberglass woven fabric, which is the same material used to make firefighter’s uniforms. This material is deigned to withstand the heat generated by a malfunctioning battery that melts, combusts, or is otherwise overheated.
With the ever changing and consistently fluctuating vaping landscape, it is impossible to foresee what new rules and regulations will be put in place in the months and years to come. For the moment, you can travel with all of your vaping gear, so long as it is properly stored within your carry-on luggage or on your person. The vaping community wholeheartedly hopes that this will not change in the future, as eliminate our ability to enjoy our vapes while abroad—a truly frightening notion.