Should the FAA Allow Electronic Cigarettes in the Sky?
Recently, I came across a post in which a corporate blogger addressed the question of what might happen to a person who tried to “light up” an electronic cigarette, cigar or pipe while aboard a commercial airliner as a passenger. As the spouse of a flight attendant, I found the topic intriguing.
In case you’re not familiar with electronic cigarettes, here’s a primer: They provide smokers with a tobacco-free, smoke-free and flame-free way to satisfy their nicotine cravings and are billed as alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
While I won’t yet recommend anyone attempt to use an electronic cigarette product while aboard a passenger airliner, I think the question is relevant for several reasons:
- Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, tars or other harmful ingredients;
- Electronic cigarettes do not generate any smoke (Instead, they emit only a harmless vapor that simulates smoke yet satisfies the nicotine urges and cravings);
- Electronic cigarettes hold the potential to transform traditionally smoke-filled environments (i.e., casinos, bowling alleys, pool halls, bars and restaurants) into smoke-free environments that can be enjoyed by smokers and non-smokers alike; and, perhaps best of all
- Electronic cigarettes leave none of the residue and odors that accompany traditional cigarettes on clothing and other surfaces.
On the flip side, one must consider the issue from the viewpoint of airline flight crew members. Not unlike most members of the general public, most crew members — in particular, the flight attendants — are unfamiliar with electronic cigarettes and the fact that they rely upon rechargeable batteries, instead of a flame, to function. Each is taught -- and required by the FAA -- to react in such a way as to ensure no one aboard their aircraft uses anything remotely resembling a smoking device.
The primary reason for banning smoking aboard aircraft, as spelled out in the most-pertinent FAA regulation on the topic, is “to reduce the possibility of fire.” Because electronic cigarettes do not require any sort of flame to operate, they seem to have put the cigarettes-constitute-a-fire-hazard argument to rest.
What do you think?