Think no one will know if you take a quick puff from a vape in a plane bathroom? You should think again.
Vaping on a plane is not only dangerous but a federal offense that could get you a fine of almost $2,000.
“FAA regulations prohibit smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, on board airliners,” a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson told Newsweek, adding, “Passengers who violate federal vaping laws could face fines up to $1,771.”
In a viral TikTok video shared in late September, Natalie Magee, who is a flight attendant, according to several videos shared on her TikTok profile and her company website, warned passengers against vaping or smoking on a plane. In her post, she wrote, “Please don’t be this person.”
Recalling a recent flight she was on where vaping or smoking was suspected to have taken place on board, she explained the complex ordeal that unfolds if signs of smoke are detected.
Magee said this process includes “a complete overhaul of the systems and the engines,” and the plane is put out of service for several hours. The delay could see you or other passengers miss their connecting flights, she noted.
The FAA spokesperson said vapes and e-cigarettes were “the leading cause for incidents of smoke, fire or extreme heat on aircraft in 2022.”
Among the 55 incidents reported through September of last year, vapes and e-cigarettes accounted for 19 of them. “That’s 35 percent of all incidents in 2022 and triple the incidents reported in 2019,” the FAA spokesperson said.
Why Are Vapes, E-Cigarettes Dangerous on Planes?
The FAA says that vaping is dangerous on a plane because electronic smoking devices contain lithium batteries that pose a fire risk.
Passengers are allowed to bring these devices on the plane, the FAA says, but they must be “appropriately packed” in the following ways:
Vapes, e-cigarettes and spare lithium batteries must only be placed in your carry-on luggage.Vapes and e-cigarettes should be carefully protected to keep the device from accidentally turning on.Place vapes and e-cigarettes in a protective case or remove the batteries and store each battery in its own case or plastic bag to prevent a short circuit.
What Happens if You Vape on a Plane?
FAA regulations do not specify the exact actions the flight crew must take if a passenger is found to be smoking or vaping on a plane.
Magee said in the clip, “When you vape or smoke in the bathroom and you do not identify yourself if you get caught, that airplane is grounded for a minimum of about two hours because they have to do a complete overhaul of the systems and the engines and everything like that.”
Magee is from Alabama but moved to Colorado in 2005 to become a flight attendant, according to the website of Yogi Magee Adventures, a company she launched.
She recalled receiving an “emergency call from the flight deck” in the middle of a recent flight: “We pick up the phone and the captain is like, ‘Who is vaping in the bathroom?'”
In a follow-up video on TikTok, she said the flight deck receives a notification that the smoke alarm has gone off and that smoke has been detected. “They don’t know if that smoke is coming from someone actually smoking…or if it’s coming from a fire in the bathroom.”
The pilots do know “exactly what bathroom it [the smoke alarm] goes off on” and will alert the flight crew to check out what’s happening, she said.
If someone admits to smoking, this allows the team to “know the trigger for the smoke alarm, [and] that’s a lot easier to deal with” than having to “guess what made the smoke alarm go off,” she said.
When no one admits to the act, the plane will have to be grounded so the maintenance team can look into various possibilities.
“They don’t know if the smoke alarm is giving just a false alarm or if there was a fire somewhere else detected,” she said. So they need to “check all the systems to detect where that smoke was coming from.”
Noting that two hours is just a “rough estimate,” she said how long a plane is grounded depends on how long it takes for the maintenance team to go through all the checks, as well as resetting all the smoke alarms.
The plane can also be out of service for a lot longer depending on how far the maintenance team is from the airport, which could be another city, Magee said.
What Happens if You’re Caught Vaping on a Plane?
In the video, Magee recalled a captain telling her about an incident in which a passenger suspected of vaping or smoking was spotted coming out of the bathroom and was confronted.
If the person who vaped or smoked “comes clean and confesses that they’d done so, you’re just basically gonna get berated on the ground” and it won’t become a huge ordeal, she said.
But “if you do not come clean, this airplane is gonna be out of service for two hours, and the next people are gonna miss their connecting flights because you were smoking in the bathroom,” she said.
She warned: “So the moral of the story is: Those smoke detectors do work. Do not smoke or vape in the bathroom. And if you get caught, you absolutely need to come clean.”
Newsweek has contacted the original poster for comment. This video has not been independently verified.
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