On almost every corner in St. Louis recently are signs for “vapor rooms” or “vaping” locations. Curious, I did some research. These are locations where the newly popular electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are sold and used. We now have electronic devices that are alternatives to real cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Some of these devices are called an e-cigarette, e-pen or even an e-hookah. They work by using a lithium battery to heat an internal coil which vaporizes a mixture of various chemicals and flavorings, including nicotine which is then inhaled.
Last week one of our local news stations, Fox 2 Now, aired a story about injuries received from electronic smoking devices exploding or catching fire while in the hands or pockets of some users. The full story can be found here. Please be warned some of the images are graphic in nature.
As someone in the “safety business,” I was curious in regards to what regulations are currently in place for these items. Back in January of 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert that air carriers require these devices only in the cabin of the aircraft. This was followed by a June 2015 ICAO addendum that “prohibits the carriage of e-cigarettes in checked baggage and restricts the charging of these devices while on board the aircraft.” In May of this year, the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued their final rule on this topic. The final rule “prohibits passengers and crew members from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices (e.g., e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-cigars, e-pipes, personal vaporizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) in checked baggage and prohibits passengers and crew members from charging the devices and/or batteries on board an aircraft.” This final rule follows the interim one published in October 2015. As for using these devices during flight, it is prohibited. PHMSA’s previous policy prohibited their use, but to avoid confusion the Department is amending the rule to clearly state the ban. Also note that the charging devices and/or batteries for these devices are included in this ban.
What is interesting to note, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate e-cigarettes. This means there are no set of standards to determine what can be in the mixture that is vaporized and then inhaled. Another scary thought is that without some regulation, middle and high school students have easy access to these devices. In an article from the American Lung Association in August of 2014, a startling statistic was noted from a 2011 – 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
The number of youth who used e-cigarettes but never used conventional cigarettes increased from 79,000 in 2011 to 263,000 in 2013. Among these youth, the study found 43.9 percent “intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year.” This is compared to only 21.5 percent who said they intended to smoke a cigarette but had never used an e-cigarette.
Isn’t it interesting that we have transportation regulations and bans in place for our safety on an aircraft but not for our overall health on the ground? While ICC Compliance Center won’t be able to help with that part, we can help with all of your lithium battery transportation needs including answering your questions and providing training.