Domestic airlines have been asked by the civil aviation regulator to formulate a policy on handling of electronic cigarettes, and display warnings inside lavatories and passenger briefing cards as part of the cabin safety measures.
Under the new cabin safety circular, effective tomorrow, the operators would have to develop procedures to "ensure passengers are advised to remove electronic cigarettes (valet/ sky check) or in cases where excess carry on baggage must be placed in the hold".
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), popularly known as e-cigarettes, produce an aerosolised mixture containing flavoured liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user. The system is powered by lithium batteries.
"Electronic, simulated smoking materials (cigarettes, pipes, cigars) are prohibited from use by both passengers and crew at all times. Operators should not permit the use of any item which could insinuate that smoking is permitted on board aircraft," said a circular issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
These products are not yet regulated nor approved for smoking cessation by the US Food and Drug Administration and the long-term health effects to users and bystanders are still unknown, it noted.
The DGCA said that since e-cigarettes are a potential health hazard with safety implications, airlines need to develop policy and procedures to ensure their non-usage as well as proper stowage onboard an aircraft.
"Airlines should develop inflight procedures by way of placards/warnings inside the lavatories, safety announcements, passenger briefing cards etc.," the circular said.
The operators have also been asked to communicate their electronic cigarette policy to passengers by various means including through website and during ticket purchase.
The circular would be applicable to all Indian operators, which are into scheduled and non-scheduled commercial air transport, as well as state government plane and general aviation aircraft.
Apart from known as e-cigarettes, ENDS are also called personal vaporisers, vape pens, e-hookah or vaping devices.
According to the watchdog, e-cigarettes can be accepted on board in the passengers carry on baggage provided they remain stowed and unused at all times.