WASHINGTON – The U.S. Transportation Department said Wednesday it is permanently banning passengers and crew members from carrying e-cigarettes in checked baggage or charging the devices onboard aircraft.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx cited a number of recent incidents that show the devices can catch fire during transport. Passengers may continue to carry e-cigarettes for personal use in carry-on baggage or on their person, but may not use them on flights, Foxx said.
"Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous," Foxx said in a statement. "Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent and important safety measure."
The rule covers battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices including e-cigarettes, e-cigars and e-pipes, but does not prohibit passengers from transporting other devices containing batteries for personal use like laptop computers or cell phones.
The rule makes a temporary ban instituted in November become permanent.
In August 2014, an e-cigarette in a passenger's checked bag in the cargo hold of an aircraft caused a fire forcing an evacuation of the plane at Boston's Logan Airport.
In January 2015, a checked bag that arrived late and missed its connecting flight was found to be on fire in a baggage area at Los Angeles International Airport. The incident was blamed on an overheated e-cigarette inside the bag.
The government said the danger has been worsened by the growing trend of users modifying and rebuilding their reusable e-cigarette devices and swapping components, which may include the use of batteries, heating elements, and electronic components.
In March, the U.S. Transportation Department separately banned the use of electronic cigarettes on commercial flights.
The Transportation Department said it took the action to eliminate any confusion over whether its existing ban on smoking on flights includes electronic cigarettes.
Congress banned all smoking on airline flights in 2000, and no U.S. airline allowed electronic cigarette use. But the Transportation Department said some charter flights may have allowed the practice.