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What's the Penalty for Using an E-Cigarette on a Plane?

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By George Khoury, Esq. on December 19, 2016 2:57 PM

Despite the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaporizers, neither can be used on a plane. Recent regulations passed by the federal government went into effect this year officially prohibiting e-cigarette use or vaping. Additionally, because of the risk of fire posed by e-cigarette batteries, they are not allowed to be charged on planes.

Prior to the regulations, each individual airline had an independent policy prohibiting it, which was backed by a federal regulation allowing airlines to enact their own policies that don't conflict with the law. The penalties for violating federal aviation regulations can be extraordinarily severe.

Typical Penalties for Vaping In-Flight

Simply using an e-cigarette or other vaporizer (or regular cigarette) can end up getting a person arrested and fined tens of thousands of dollars. If a flight is diverted and forced to make a landing because of your actions, which could happen if clouds of apple-pie scented vapor start billowing out of the bathroom, you could be facing serious legal consequences, including imprisonment. It's yet to be seen what will happen to this man, whose e-cig exploded while he was vaping in-flight.

The fine for smoking or vaping on a flight can range from $2 to $4,000, and by itself is not a jailable offense. However, it can quickly escalate if a person is found to have tampered with a smoke detector, or failed to comply with a crew member's instruction, such as to stop smoking. Generally, while a person may be arrested and removed from a flight for smoking, or vaping, unless there was more to the incident, there will only be a fine imposed. However, be warned that on some international flights, depending on the destination country, a person could be arrested upon arrival and put in jail.

In Flight Enforcement

Frequently, the rules of the friendly skies are not that strictly enforced, meaning that passengers that engage in non-dangerous, prohibited conduct are warned to stop what they are doing by flight crew. However, when a person refuses to comply with a crew member instruction, that is when matters can quickly escalate and a person could be facing much more serious consequences. Many times, a single, small incident (like lighting up or vaping in the bathroom) may be enough to cause a plane to be diverted.

Of all the fines issued by the FAA, only approximately 10% are due to in-flight smoking violations. Additionally, it is worth noting that many fines for smoking end up being as small as $50.

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