Plane passengers are banned from putting vape pens or e-cigarettes in luggage that goes in aircraft holds.

The move by the Federal Aviation Administration in the USA follows fears that they can cause fires or even explode due to the lithium ion batteries inside them.

According to Master Sgt Mike Hawkins, occupational safety manager at Shriever Air Force Base in Colorado: “The shape of the devices coupled with the current generation of lithium ion batteries used to produce the vapour are two primary hazard sources. Alarmingly, 66% of reported e-cigarette fires or explosions spawned larger fires by igniting other flammable objects that were in close proximity.

“According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, around 62% of fires and explosions involving these vaping devices are happening either when the device was in use or while the batteries were in the owner’s pocket.”

Last January a man in Idaho lost seven teeth and suffered severe facial burns when his vape pen exploded.

The US Fire Administration recommends that lithium-ion batteries should not be used in e-cigarettes. While the number of batteries that explode and catch fire is statistically small, the catastrophic nature of the injuries that can occur warrants the use of another battery technology for e-cigarettes.

The administration adds: “E-cigarettes using lithium-ion batteries present a new and unique hazard to consumers. No other consumer product places a battery with a known explosion hazard such as this in such close proximity to vital areas of the human body.”

* AvSax fire containment bags are now on board several major airlines worldwide and are used to deal with burning electronic devices ranging from laptops and mobile phones to e-cigarettes. 

They were deployed on aircraft 20 times in 2017. 

If an electronic device starts to seriously overheat or emit smoke the cabin crew will pour at least two litres of water into an AvSax and then drop the burning device into the bag, adding additional water as required. The water activates the polymer gel inside the bag causing it to expand around the device. Should the device keep on venting then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force. 

The AvSax cools the batteries in the device, reducing the likelihood of the battery catching fire but if it does go into what is known as thermal runaway when all the battery cells catch fire at incredibly hot temperatures it is all contained within the bag.

Amazingly, the water is absorbed into the internal lining of the bag so the device is dry when it is removed.