RICHMOND — The Department of Transportation says the use of smokeless electronic cigarettes on airplanes is prohibited and plans to issue an official ban this spring, according to a letter from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood obtained by the Associated Press.
In the letter to Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, LaHood said the department has been informing airlines and the public that it interprets smoking regulations to include e-cigarettes. Lautenberg, who wrote the 1987 law that banned smoking on airplanes, had asked transportation officials to clarify the rule.
E-cigarettes are plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge, creating vapor that the “smoker’’ inhales. A tiny light on the tip glows like a real cigarette. They have prompted debate over how risky they are.
Lautenberg said some passengers have interpreted flight attendant instructions to mean that the devices were prohibited only when other electronic devices were not allowed during takeoff and landing.