Sen. Brown Joins Colleagues in Urging Department of Transportation to Finally Ban E-Cigarettes on Airplanes

Brown Asks Secretary Foxx to Finalize Regulation Protecting Airline Passengers from Exposure to Secondhand Vapor

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the Department of Transportation (DOT) to finally prohibit the use of e-cigarettes on airplanes. DOT first proposed a ban more than two years ago, but has delayed issuing a final regulation that would bar e-cigarette “vaping” on all domestic and international flights to or from the United States. Brown was joined on the letter to the DOT Secretary, Anthony Foxx, by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA).

“We are writing to you with great concern about protecting consumer health on commercial flights,” the senators wrote. “While many major carriers have decided to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, federal regulations still allow these products to be used during flight. The Department of Transportation first published proposed rules to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft on September 15, 2011…. It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized.”

The letter points out that numerous electronic cigarette companies have marketed their products as a way to break the rules and smoke in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, such as airplanes. The senators included examples of advertisements that feature or imply the use of electronic cigarettes on airplanes.

The DOT signaled its concern about the potential health impacts of e-cigarettes when it first proposed the ban in 2011, noting that “[r]eleasing a vapor that may contain harmful substances or respiratory irritants in a confined space, especially to those who are at a higher risk, is contrary to the purpose and intent of the statutory and regulatory ban on smoking aboard aircraft.”

While many e-cigarette manufacturers market their products as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes, recent studies have raised concerns about the possible health impacts of e-cigarette vapor on users and secondhand inhalers as a result of exposure to the carcinogens and toxins found in e-cigarettes.

Brown continues to work toward reducing the negative effects of tobacco product use for Ohioans. Last month, Brown and seven of his colleagues called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recognize recent studies that show potential health impacts of “vapor” or “plume” on e-cigarette users and secondhand inhalers. Two new studies describe the harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde, that are sometimes released in the plume of vapor from certain high powered e-cigarettes. The FDA is currently in the process of reviewing public comments to its recently proposed first-time rules extending its authority to oversee e-cigarettes. Brown called on the agency to consider this latest information as it develops its regulatory structure for the rapidly evolving market of e-cigarettes and advanced nicotine delivery products.

The FDA’s proposal on deeming regulations followed a meeting last month between Brown, Blumenthal, Merkley, and Commissioner Hamburg. During their meeting, the lawmakers urged the agency to do everything in its power to expand its oversight of Big Tobacco in order to protect consumers from the dangers of e-cigs and ensure they aren’t being marketed to children. Brown has also pressed the FDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to regulate tobacco products to the full extent of their powers, such as the use of graphic warning labels, finalizing their regulatory powers over tobacco products, and ensuring that all tobacco products are properly taxed and controlled.

Brown’s and his colleagues’ letter DOT can be read in its entirety below:

 

June 10, 2014

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Secretary Foxx:

We are writing to you with great concern about protecting consumer health on commercial flights. While many major carriers have decided to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, federal regulations still allow these products to be used during flight.

The Department of Transportation first published proposed rules to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on aircraft on September 15, 2011 (Docket No. DOT–OST–2011–0044). This rule when finalized will ban the smoking of electronic cigarettes on both domestic and foreign air carriers to and from the United States. It is unacceptable that it has been more than two years and this rule has yet to be finalized.

As the Department’s own preamble in 2011 noted, “Releasing a vapor that may contain harmful substances or respiratory irritants in a confined space, especially to those who are at a higher risk, is contrary to the purpose and intent of the statutory and regulatory ban on smoking aboard aircraft.” It also notes that the purpose of such a regulation “is to prevent introduction of a new potential source of contamination to the cabin environment that could potentially endanger the welfare of nonsmokers who are now protected from all such exposure.”

Numerous electronic cigarette companies have marketed their products as offering the freedom to break the rules or smoke in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, such as airplanes. We have attached some examples of past advertisements that feature or imply the use of electronic cigarettes on airplanes.

Please act immediately to finalize these rules, and respond with an exact date when regulations will be published and when electronic cigarettes will finally be banned on commercial flights.

 

Sincerely,       

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Tom Harkin
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Jack Reed
United States Senator

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

 

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