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As people return to traveling in 2021, a lot of passengers will be asking about the TSA rules for vapes, mods, and e-cigarettes. The rules are relatively straightforward but there are some specific requirements that you need to be aware of when it comes to things like cartridges and batteries.
In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about bringing your vape pens or e-cigarettes through airport security.
What are the TSA rules for vapes and e-cigarettes?
TSA allows passengers to bring electronic cigarettes and similar devices (vaporizers, vape pens, mods, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) through airport security as a carry-on. However, these devices are prohibited in checked baggage.
The FAA banned e-cigarettes in checked luggage in 2016 after there were reports of small fires that broke out in the cargo holds. So this restriction is for the safety of all passengers and crew. Please do not attempt to get around this restriction as it will put everybody at risk.
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Bringing vapes and e-cigarettes through airport security
When taking your vapes and e-cigarettes through the airport, you can bring them inside your carry-on or inside a personal item (such as a backpack) no problem. (I don’t recommend putting them in your pocket while in the airport because you might forget as you go through airport security.)
Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta, recommended that you store them in a designated carry case that may have come with the original vape packaging.
If your mod/vaping device has multiple parts then it is recommended that you disassemble your vaporizer prior to entering the security line. Even better is if you have all of the parts (atomizer, tank, mouth piece, batteries, etc.) neatly placed within a carrier for easy inspection.
When you are actually going through security, it’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray/bin, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag. If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.
Generally speaking, the larger your device the greater your chances of a TSA agent wanting to take a closer look. If they want to take a closer inspection, just let them do their thing. If you don’t have any illegal substances, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Note that if you are bringing special pods or packs that contain liquid vape you need to comply with the liquids rule which I will talk about below.
Liquid vape cartridges
Liquid cartridges such as JUULpods that click into the top of the JUUL devices and other similar containers that contain e “juices” are considered a liquid and, therefore, they will be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.
The liquids 3-1-1 rule requires all liquid containers to be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller and for them to be stored in a quart sized bag (preferably a clear Ziploc bag).
This means that if you are transporting JUULpods or other juice packs, you need to transport them in a very specific way.
First, the vape cartridges need to be smaller than 100ml. Many vape juice cartridges are much smaller than 100ml so it should not be difficult for you to find TSA compliant vape cartridges.
In some cases you may need to remove your vape cartridge from your device so that the device has no attachments containing liquid.
Second, you need to place these cartridges in a quart sized Ziploc bag. The key thing here is that the cartridges must fit “comfortably” inside the bag which means the bag cannot be overstuffed or almost bursting at the seams.
If you do not have TSA Pre-Check, you will need to remove your liquids bag from your carry-on as you make your way through the airport screening process.
Because of this screening process you might be better off just transporting your pods in your checked baggage where you can transport unlimited quantities.
There are reports of the pods leaking at high altitudes so having them in a sealed bag is highly recommended. It is also better to transport a partially used cartridge that has room for the liquid to expand to avoid leakage.
Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)
Checking your bag at the gate
Sometimes your plane may not have room for your carry-on, especially if you are towards the back of the boarding process.
If this happens to you and you are traveling with your vape, be sure that you remove your vape an batteries from your carry-on bag that they are checking because they will not be allowed as a checked item.
Vape pen chargers
If you are bringing a power charger or power bank that contains a lithium ion battery it must also be packed in your carry-on bag.
This is because such battery packs can cause risks of explosions and fires in the cargo hold. So to be on the safe side, bring your spare batteries with you on your carry-on.
Keep in mind that TSA can apply extra scrutiny when traveling with multiple spare batteries because the batteries can pose a risk. This is especially true if your lithium batteries have more than 100 watt hours.
For that reason, you may want to only travel with one spare battery or pack your multiple batteries delicately so that they cannot come in to contact with each other.
Flying with marijuana/THC vapes
With the growing legalization of marijuana in different states, a lot of travelers are now curious as to how they can legally fly when carrying marijuana on them.
The first thing to note is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level which makes it illegal to fly with.
Reportedly, regardless of what airport you are departing, TSA’s response to finding marijuana will be the same.
“It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers explained.
“This also covers medical marijuana.”
But in practice it’s not clear that this is the case.
If you are flying from a state that has legal marijuana, such as Colorado, and you were caught with marijuana at the airport, it is possible that they will simply request for you to dispose of the cannabis.
But if you were traveling from an area where marijuana is not legalized, the response could be much different.
The bottom line is that this is still a bit of a gray area that is still developing and so there are basically no guarantees as to how TSA will react upon finding marijuana in your possession during the security screening process.
The second thing to note is that TSA is not actively looking to discover marijuana or other illegal drugs that might be in your possession. The TSA website states:
TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs
However, they do note that if illegal substances are discovered during the security screening process the TSA will refer the matter to a law-enforcement officer.
Many vapes containing THC are pretty discreet so they may not always be easily detected.
So if you are traveling with (small amounts) of marijuana/THC vape pens you may not encounter any problems but you should be prepared to have to dispose of your marijuana if it is detected by TSA and in a worst-case scenario, be prepared to explain why you have it in your possession to a law-enforcement officer.
Related: Can You Bring Food on a Plane?
The back up plan
Some travelers who are weary about losing items when going through security will bring a self-addressed envelope with postage so that they can mail off any item that would be confiscated.
I’ve personally never tried this before but I have seen reports online of people doing it successfully. While a rare occurrence, it could come in handy when a TSA agent uses discretion to confiscate your vape due to some unknown reason or suspicion (TSA agents have discretion to prevent you from bringing items through security).
I don’t see any reason why the self-addressed envelope route could not work in many instances but if you are trying to mail off illegal substances such as marijuana then it could be problematic.
TSA rules for vapes FAQ
No, you are not allowed to vape inside an aircraft. This is to protect people from the devices’ second-hand vapor and to reduce the risk of a device malfunctioning. If you are caught vaping on a plane you could be subject to a large fine up to $4,000.
Many airlines require your vape to be turned off or to be placed in safety mode during flight.
No, you are not allowed to vape anywhere inside an aircraft.
Yes, e-cigarettes are allowed to be brought on a plane as a carry-on.
Vape pens are not allowed in checked baggage because they present a hazardous risk. The batteries could be prone to exploding and catching fire in the cargo compartment.
Many airlines will not allow you to charge an e-cigarette during flight and may require it to be powered off.
Some countries have banned e-cigarettes from flights and from importation so before attempting to travel with an e-cigarette on an international flight you should first verify that possession of the e-cigarette in the country is legal.
While TSA does not actively seek out vapes containing THC, it is possible that if it is detected they will request for you to throw it out or refer you to airport authorities. This can even occur when departing from a state with legalized marijuana.
No, you do not have to declare your electronic cigarette or vape. However, you should remove it from your carry-on and comply with the liquids rule if needed.
Cartridges containing liquids tend to leak at high altitudes as the liquid expands under the decreased air pressure. So it is recommended to not carry cartridges that are full with e-liquid.
Yes, vapor can set off the smoke alarm on a plane which is another reason why you do not want to vape on a plane.
Traveling with an e-cigarette or vape through airport security is permitted so long as you comply with the liquid rules.
You want to pay extra attention to make sure you do not leave your cigarettes in your checked baggage because that could present major risks to the flight and also get you into legal trouble.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.