One source of frustration to electronic cigarette users is the lack of defined procedures and rules governing flying with e-cigs. Electronic cigarettes are not covered in the TSA’s official list of approved and prohibited items, few airports have released guidelines regarding electronic cigarettes, and most airlines don’t have an official policy regarding their use on planes.
With so much “up in the air,” what’s an e-cig user to do?
First, let’s look at the issue of electronic cigarettes and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Especially when traveling with expensive mods, the last thing an e-cig user wants is for a mod worth several hundred dollars to be confiscated by the TSA. While electronic cigarettes are not referenced in the TSA’s prohibited items or 3-1-1 for Carry-ons list, I was hesitant to carry my Provari and Kayfun with me without knowing for sure that they were allowed. Thankfully, the TSA’s official blog does reference electronic cigarettes. According to the blog, “TSA has no problem with e-cigs being packed in your carry-on or checked bags.”
I put this to the test, carrying my Provari, two mechanical mods, and 4 different tanks in my briefcase when traveling to D.C.. Flying in, I had no issues going through security. However, when flying out of D.C., my briefcase was stopped. The TSA officer asked me what my devices were. I told him they were electronic cigarettes, and after examining one for about 10 seconds, he waved me through and told me to have a good day.
So, even when faced with advanced and odd-looking mods, the TSA doesn’t have an issue with electronic cigarettes. Regarding batteries, the lithium ion batteries that most electronic cigarettes use are safe for air travel.
There are a few things worth mentioning at this point. First, if you are using large tanks or carrying e-liquid, remember to put them in your clear quart bag just like any other liquid. Don’t bring any bottles over 100ml, as they are not allowed.
Second, if possible, pack your electronic cigarette in your carry-on rather than your checked bag. While you may be stopped by a TSA agent and have to explain what it is, it’s better than putting it in a checked bag that’s not only out of your control, but inaccessible until you get it from the baggage carousel.
If for some reason you do have to pack your electronic cigarettes in your checked bags, it’s not a big deal. Almost all modern luggage compartments are pressurized and temperature controlled. I recommend putting your e-cigs in a zip-lock bag, as some minor e-liquid leakage can frequently occur during baggage handling.
Finally, make sure all of your units are turned off or have their safety switch engaged. Nothing can ruin your trip quicker than a misunderstanding about why something that looks like smoke is coming from your bag. Plus, you could risk overheating and damage during longer trips.
Vaping in airports and airplanes
The issue is less “is it legal” and more “how will it be perceived.”
Regarding airports, USA Today recently released a list of airports that have official policies allowing or banning e-cig use. Until clear guidelines are released, it’s best to ask if you can vape when there is any doubt. In addition, “discrete” vaping is advisable, as other travelers may not be familiar with electronic cigarettes and misconstrue their use.
This is even more important when vaping on a plane. The practice is discouraged on most airlines and banned on a few, so it’s always best to ask the stewardess before starting to vape. The issue has nothing to do with safety or legality, rather, it again relates largely to the perceptions of other travelers. Imagine for a moment that you don’t know what electronic cigarettes are and you see something that looks like smoke coming from the seat in front of you, or from a metallic cylinder with strange buttons or numbers on the other side of the aisle. It’s understandable how this could easily lead to tense misunderstanding.
Always remember, whenever we vape in public, we’re de-facto “ambassadors” of the vaping community. In order for electronic cigarettes to gain a wider acceptance, it’s important that we show the public that vapers are polite, conscientious, and considerate.