Official: Feds should look at e-cigs on planes

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm •  Published: August 15, 2014
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BOSTON (AP) — Federal authorities should consider further restrictions for electronic cigarettes on planes, airport officials said after one of the devices apparently started a small fire that forced passengers to briefly evacuate a plane last weekend.

Ed Freni, director of aviation at the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Boston's Logan International Airport, said the device was packed in a passenger's checked luggage and burned a small hole in the bag. He said it could have been far more serious had a baggage handler not smelled smoke, located the smoldering bag and extinguished it before the plane took off.

"If that airplane had taxied out and got airborne it might have been a very different story," Freni said Friday.

E-cigarettes, which turn a liquid nicotine solution into a vapor, are typically powered by lithium-ion batteries. They are considered personal devices under U.S. aviation rules and are treated like other battery-powered devices, such as laptop computers, cellphones and cameras. Like cigarettes, however, passengers can't use e-cigs in-flight.

Under current federal regulations, airline passengers are allowed to bring personal devices onto planes, but all lithium-ion batteries must be protected from damage or accidental activation. Spare lithium-ion batteries are prohibited from checked baggage.

A U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the agency, which regulates which items are deemed hazardous on planes, is not currently considering further restrictions on personal devices.

Freni, of the Massachusetts Port Authority, says not enough attention has been paid to potential fire safety issues around e-cigarettes.

While the authority and the airline say all signs point to the e-cigarette as the source of the fire, the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services said the cause had not yet been determined.

Department spokeswoman Jennifer Mieth cautioned people not to jump to conclusions about e-cigarette safety, but she said the agency does recommend users disconnect the device's batteries before putting them away as a precaution.

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