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New PHMSA Final Rule Prohibits E-Cigarettes in Checked Luggage

Posted on 11/3/2015 by Roger Marks

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today published an Interim Final Rule to prohibit airline passengers and crewmembers from placing battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices, like electronic cigarettes ("e-cigs"), e-vaporizers, and others in checked baggage.

In addition, the new Rule prohibits passengers and crew from charging battery-powered smoking devices aboard an aircraft.

Because these battery-powered e-cigarettes rely on a heating element to deliver nicotine to the user, they pose a fire safety risk aboard airplanes. These devices, packed in checked baggage, have been involved in fire incidents—including one at Boston's Logan Airport in August 2014, when an e-cigarette caused a fire aboard an aircraft, which forced passengers to evacuate. A similar incident occurred at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in January 2015.

The new Interim Final Rule will change the regulations at 49 CFR 175.10–Exceptions for passengers, crewmembers, and air operators, which in the past allowed people to pack electronic smoking devices in checked bagged under the provisions for portable electronic devices. Passengers and crew will still be permitted to bring e-cig devices onboard as part of their carry-on luggage; however, as stated previously, they will not be allowed to charge these devices while on board the aircraft.

Battery powered electronic smoking device

The section also lays out the DOT requirements for protecting spare lithium batteries against short circuit in transit and the size limits on spare lithium batteries (2 grams or 100 Watt hours).

PHMSA's Interim Final Rule is exclusive to battery-powered smoking devices in checked bagged. Passengers and crew may still pack these devices in carry-on baggage. Also, passengers may still transport other lithium battery-powered devices in checked bagged, like laptop computers and cell phones.

The rule is the latest in a series of recent changes to the rules for shipping and carrying lithium battery-powered devices. In September, PHMSA and US FAA representatives met with industry in advance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Dangerous Goods Panel to discuss lithium battery air safety.

The ICAO DG Panel, for its part, backed the most stringent restrictions for lithium batteries shipped by air in history.

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