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E-Cigs Banned from Checked Bags on Flights

Tossing an e-cigarette into your checked bag at the airport before you take flight is no longer legal.

A new federal rule, which is set to go into effect this November, does the following:

1. Prohibits passengers and crewmembers from carrying battery-powered portable electronic smoking devices (e.g. e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, personal vaporizers, electronic nicotine delivery systems) in checked baggage.

2. Prohibits passengers and crew members from charging the devices and/or batteries on board the aircraft.

Passengers will still be able to carry e-cigs and related devices in carry-on bags that stay with them in the plane's cabin.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued the latest ruling due to concerns about the devices sparking a fire on planes. The PHMSA develops and enforces regulations for "the safe, reliable and environmentally sound operation of the nation's 2.6 million mile pipeline transportation system and the nearly 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials by land, sea, and air," according to their website.

"We know from recent incidents that e-cigarettes in checked bags can catch fire during transport," said Anthony Foxx, U.S. transportation secretary. "Fire hazards in flight are particularly dangerous. Banning e-cigarettes from checked bags is a prudent safety measure."

Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs and vaporizers do not require a flame to work. Instead, they use a battery to heat the internal e-liquid and create a smoke-like vapor. That battery, however, can cause a dangerous level of heat, officials said.

There have been at least 26 incidents since 2009 where e-cigarettes have caused explosions or fires, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Several of these incidents occurred when the devices were packed in luggage. Usually, according to the department, they have been accidentally left on or the battery has short-circuited.

In January at the Los Angeles International Airport, a checked bag caught fire in the luggage area. An e-cigarette that overheated while packed inside the luggage was blamed for the fire.

In January, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a safety alert that recommended that all air carriers require their passengers to carry e-cigarettes and related devices exclusively in the cabin of the aircraft.

In June, the International Civil Aviation Organization also prohibited carrying e-cigarettes in checked baggage and restricted the charging of these devices while on board an aircraft.

"The importance of the safety of the flying public provides good cause for our issuing (this rule)," said PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez. "E-cigarettes in checked bags present a safety risk because they are capable of generating extreme heat, which could lead to a fire on board the aircraft."

While passengers may continue to carry e-cigarettes for personal use in carry-on baggage or on their person, they still cannot use them while onboard. The department's current regulatory ban on smoking of tobacco products on passenger flights also bans the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers.

The new rule still allows passengers to carrying other devices containing batteries for personal use (such as laptop computers, cell phones, cameras, etc.) in checked or carry-on baggage.