WASHINGTON — E-cigarette use should be banned on domestic flights and those to or from the United States, seven U.S. senators said on Tuesday in a letter urging the Department of Transportation to finalize rules proposed almost three years ago.
“While many major carriers have decided to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, federal regulations still allow these products to be used during flight,” the lawmakers, all Democrats, wrote to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Regulators first proposed a ban on “vaping” on U.S. flights in September 2011.
At the time, the DOT noted that releasing a “vapor that may contain harmful substances or respiratory irritants in a confined space, especially to those who are at a higher risk, is contrary to the purpose and intent of the statutory and regulatory ban on smoking aboard aircraft.”
In their letter to Foxx, the senators included examples of advertisements that feature or imply the use of electronic cigarettes on airplanes.
“Numerous electronic cigarette companies have marketed their products as offering the freedom to break the rules or smoke in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, such as airplanes,” the senators wrote.
Signing on to the letter were Barbara Boxer of California, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Edward Markey of Massachusetts.
Separately, the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physician organization, adopted on Tuesday a new policy backing stricter limits on the sales and marketing practices used by the makers of electronic cigarettes.
In addition to restrictions on the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to minors, the AMA said it supports child-proof and tamper-proof packaging and design, enhanced product labeling, and restrictions on flavors that appeal to minors, like tutti-frutti and chocolate.
It also backed prohibition of unsupported marketing claims that the products can be used as smoking cessation tools.
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed rules that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18, but would not restrict flavored products, online sales or advertising.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at the time that the proposals represented the first “foundational” step towards broader restrictions if scientific evidence shows they are needed to protect public health.