Vaping is just as illegal on planes as smoking, even though when someone ‘smokes’ an e-cigarette they generally aren’t exhaling smoke, just water vapor. The only reasons for this are,
- Confusion. Other passengers and crew might not realize it’s just water vapor
- Annoyance. “Smoking” is deemed bad, and other passengers may not like it, in other words it’s banned for reasons similar to inflight cell phone calls on U.S. carriers (which are allowed on many airlines all over the world
Vaping is banned on airlines, that is, except on this past Wednesday’s Southwest Airlines Phoenix – Honolulu flight.
@SouthwestAir caught this on the flight to Honolulu last night. Flight crew did nothing when it was reported. Is it safe to assume you "federal offense" policy is crap? #SouthwestAirlines #vaping pic.twitter.com/0GedievJZb
— Maddmmac (@maddmmac) October 29, 2021
It actually seems to me that Southwest crew made the correct call not to confront the passenger and escalate the situation. They might have written him up, filed a report with the airline and eventually the FAA – the passenger was breaking rules after all. But on an overwater flight without many places to divert it seems like a good idea not to be petty in immediate enforcement.
Put another way, if there’s no immediate safety risk to the plane or to other passengers, it has always seemed like a bad idea to escalate conflict inside of a metal tube out over the open ocean. To be clear I am not saying ‘don’t enforce the rules’. That would eventually lead to passengers learning that rules don’t need to be followed. Instead ask a passenger once to follow them. Then deal with the violation after the flight when the conduct in question entails little immediate risk.
By the way the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit slapped down the FDA on Tuesday over the arbitrary and capricious way it’s handling the task it’s taken on of regulating e-cigarettes.