Airline passengers will no longer be able to pack electronic cigarettes or any other form of battery operated smoking devices in their checked luggage.
The ban by Federal Aviation authorities is part of a crackdown on dangerous materials on airplanes, which began two weeks ago with a warning against allowing lithium batteries in check in luggage.
The new ruling still allows e-cigarettes in carry-on bags, but passengers cannot recharge the devices while on the plane.
According to a U.S. Department of Transport report, since 2009 there have been 26 cases where e-cigarettes have caused explosions or fires, including some where the devices were packed in luggage. The report says usually, they have been as a result of a battery short circuit, or by being left on accidentally.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued warning to airlines about e-cigarettes risks in January. An FAA statement says there have been “several incidents” associated with the devices, including one where “an e-cigarette in checked baggage stowed in an airliner’s cargo hold caused a fire that forced an evacuation of the aircraft.”
Also in January, a checked bag that arrived late and missed its connecting flight, caught fire in the luggage area at Los Angeles International Airport because of an overheated e-cigarette packed inside.
The FAA warning was met with an angry response from George Kerchner, executive director of the Rechargeable Battery Association, who said the FAA should leave the question of whether to transport lithium batteries up to the airlines, which are better able to determine what they can do safely than the government.
After the FAA warnings, Aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus sent service bulletins to their airline customers warning of the risks. As a result, a dozen airlines have banned any battery shipments or large quantities of batteries shipped together as cargo.