TVECA Weighs In On The Safety of E-Cigs on Planes

e-cigSome point fingers at lithium-ion batteries in e-cigs as a fire hazard, but laptop computers contain the same batteries.

By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor

After the New York Times reported that airport officials were asking the Transportation Department to classify e-cigarettes as hazardous materials after an e-cig allegedly caused a bag to smolder and be removed from a JetBlue flight last week, CSD caught up with Thomas Kiklas, co-founder, TVECA (Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association) for more on the safety of e-cigarettes and any potential airline bans.

The New York Times article had pointed out that the incident has raised the question of whether e-cigarettes that use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries should be added to the list of items forbidden on airplanes, which already includes matches, flares and most batteries that are “spillable.”

Safer Than Your Laptop
But Kiklas noted that laptops also contain lithium-ion batteries, which are far more likely to cause smoldering or fire than e-cigs. “If you want to ban e-cigarettes because of their batteries on planes, then you also have to ban laptops and other computer devices as well,” he said.

And that might include in the cockpit. A recently article from the Sydney Morning Herald noted that as many airlines begin replacing paper charts with laptops and tablets, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted tests to see what would happen if one of their rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells ignited. In one test, the cockpit rapidly filled with thick smoke that obscured vision.

As Kiklas pointed out, the danger of a rechargeable e-cig igniting is relatively small for the $1.5 billion dollar category. “I know of only 20—maybe two dozen at the most—incidents using electronic cigarettes, total on a national level over the last three years,” Kiklas said.

“A lot of this is press is because there is a conclusion that e-cigs are just terrible and we have to find a reason to curtail their use,” he said. One city council, for example, wanted to ban the product completely. “Well, you can’t ban the product because it’s a legal product,” Kiklas said.

The few failures that have occurred with e-cigarettes happened when the product was being charged. “That doesn’t usually occur on an airplane, because there isn’t usually the available adapter to charge an e-cig on an airplane. Don’t charge your battery on a plane and you’ll be fine. There is a simple way to deter that and you really are not supposed to be using an e-cig on a plane anyway,” he noted.

TVECA has been in ongoing communication with the FAA. “They have our numbers and we have theirs,” he noted.

Retailers who sell e-cigarettes can help encourage customers to use their rechargeable products safely and put fire fears to rest. “We ask that e-vapers and those that use e-cigarettes use them responsibly. Don’t charge them on a plane—leave them dormant at that time. When you are charging an e-cig don’t have it next to something flammable. It’s that simple,” Kiklas said.

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