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The Vaping-Friendly Skies?

While all major airlines ban on-board vaping along with smoking, Europe's discount carrier Ryan Air allows it and even sells disposable e-cigs to patrons.

The reason that is generally given for the prohibition is that other passengers, seeing the vaping passenger, might become alarmed, thinking that smoking is going on.

The US Department of Transportation proposed a formal ban in September 2011, but never followed through with it, allowing individual airlines to make the decision for themselves. All of them decided against allowing use of electronic cigarettes on board.

The Federal Aviation Administration in the US has made the following statement: "Currently, U.S. air carriers do not allow them since they contradict the no smoking ban as well as produce a propylene glycol emission when smoked." A trade association statement reads as follows: "In the absence of definitive governmental guidance, airlines are deciding this issue individually."

One vaper reported that in April 2012, gate personnel permitted vaping on a flight of Denver-based Frontier airlines, but this may have been a discretionary permission by an individual, contrary to company policy. In any case, a company document published by Frontier in December 2013 explicitly bans the practice.

In February 2012, a Continental flight from Portland, Oregon to Houston, Texas actually returned to Portland when a vaper began using an e-cig and "became uncooperative" when approached by flight attendants. The vaper and his companion were removed from the flight and detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Many vapers report "stealth" vaping on flights. This refers to the practice of unobtrusively using an e-cig, which is made possible by the virtually odorless character of the product. Stealth vapers might sit in an otherwise unoccupied row, or vape into the blanket provided by the airline. Some use the toilets for stealth vaping, since e-cig vapor does not seem to set off smoke alarms. One vaper even reports exhaling vapor directly into the smoke detector, as a test, without result.

Carrying e-cigs on board is no problem. The US Transportation Security Administration and other security agents world wide are very familiar with electronic cigarettes and treat them just like any other devices. Travelers should simply be sure to handle e-liquids like other liquids, placing them in the appropriate plastic bags. Most airports treat vaping just like smoking, limiting it to smoking lounges. London's Heathrow Airport, famous for being smoke free in all five terminals, opened a vaping lounge in Terminal 4 in November 2013.

Seven US airports allow vaping inside: Miami, Tampa, Charlotte, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, although Miami is said to be "considering the policy." New York's Port Authority banned vaping in its own terminals, but allowed it in terminals leased to airlines if they approved of it, both at La Guardia and Kennedy Airports. Of course now the city-wide ban on vaping in public space applies to all locations in both airports. Most airports outside the US and UK allow vaping in smoking rooms, but some airports in the Orient, most notably Beijing, have even closed all their smoking rooms.

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