DOT Sued Over Vaping Ban On Airplanes

The fight against having vape products undergoing the same regulations as tobacco has taken a new legal turn.

A team of lawyers has filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation — known as DOT — over the recent regulation that prohibits the carry or use of vaping products on airlines. The regulation, which came to light in May, restricts the presence — either in checked luggage or for personal use — of vaping products on any airline coming into or leaving the United States.

As reported by Heartland, the team represents the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, known as CASAA, and filed the suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit late last month. The suit alleges that the DOT overstepped its bounds by using tobacco regulations as a way to ban vaping products from airlines.

CASAA Executive Director Julie Woessner is quick to point that the suit is about the legalities of regulations that can be issued by the DOT and not an overall challenge to allow the use of vaping products on airlines.

It is a clear cut case that “is that DOT simply does not have the authority to issue this ban”, says Woessner. She went on to explain the difference between smoking and vaping as “Smoking involves lighting something on fire and then inhaling the products of combustion, whereas vaping does not involve combustion.”

This has been the major issue with the regulation the DOT is enforcing. Smoking was prohibited on airlines in the early 2000s for safety reasons — smoking was done by lighting a cigarette, which is very dangerous on airplanes. However, because vaping does not use combustion as the driver for the vapor the devices create, vaping advocates believe that the devices should not be banned by federal agencies.

Because the DOT only has as much authority as Congress grants them, lawyers are challenging the agency’s ability to enforce the regulation. They also argue that Congress never gave the agency the ability to create regulations when it comes to vaping products, so the federal regulation itself is invalid.

It is also important to know that this lawsuit is not about the moral or ethical issues surrounding vaping on airplanes. In fact, most vaping advocates are encouraging individual airlines to make that decision themselves once they have enough information to make a decision.

This lawsuit is about the fine line between federal regulations that encompass both tobacco and vaping products under the same umbrella. Although the suit is based on technicalities, it is hoped that it will pave the way for more challenges in court over federal regulations that unfairly target vape products. For now, however, the vaping public will have to watch and wait as this suit makes it way through court.

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