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Vapes on a Plane: What You Need to Know to Fly Hassle-Free

Jim McDonald
February 18, 2020

Can you bring a vape on a plane?

Vaping devices like e-cigarettes, vape pens and mods must travel with you on airplanes, in carry-on luggage or in your pockets. That also applies to lithium batteries. And while e-liquid or extra pods can be packed in either carry-on or checked bags, federally controlled substances like cannabis products—even small amounts, such as residue in devices—are prohibited on most U.S. flights.

This advice in this article applies in most places around the world, although we specifically reference Transportation Security Administration regulations. Since there may be minor variations in how TSA vape rules are applied by different airlines even in the U.S., it’s best to check the specific airline rules before you fly. If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar country, you should also check the local vaping laws before you depart. Vaping is banned in some countries—in which case flying with a vape pen might be the least of your worries!

How to pack e-juice, batteries, and devices

Air travel is pretty straightforward for vapers. You can take a vape on a plane—and extra batteries, and e-liquid. You won’t have any problems as long as you follow some basic rules and know the procedures.

e-liquids packed in a suitcase for flying

Flying with vaping devices and batteries

Because of concerns over fires in the cargo hold, all electronic devices and lithium vape batteries must be carried onto the plane. You can’t pack them in checked baggage. This is a worldwide rule, with no exceptions. If you forget and your luggage is x-rayed by the baggage handlers, you’re liable to lose your devices and batteries, and find your suitcase roughed up. Or they might leave your luggage at the departure airport. So take your vape devices aboard in your cabin luggage (or in a pocket).

More tips for flying with vape devices:

  • If you take extra batteries, keep them in safe plastic battery cases to avoid accidents
  • If your mod uses external batteries, don’t forget a battery charger!
  • If your trip is short, consider taking a couple simple devices like disposable vape. They’re easy to carry, they don’t need a charger, and you won’t have to pack e-liquid.
  • Cabin pressure can make full tanks leak. Only fill them partially, or leave them empty till you arrive at your destination

Traveling with vape juice: important tips

All liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes carried onto the plane must be in 100 mL (or smaller) bottles, and must fit into a single 1-quart plastic bag, per TSA rules. That includes toothpaste, shampoo, hair gel, lip balm, deodorant—and e-juice too.

If you’re bringing more bottled e-juice than will fit in the 1-quart bag allowed in your carry-on, you’ll have to put it in your checked luggage. If you do that, double bag it to avoid arriving for your week-long vacation with a suitcase full of wet vanilla custard-smelling clothes! Good news: there’s no size limit for liquids in checked baggage, and pods and cartridges are also allowed.

Tips for flying with e-liquid:

  • Cabin pressure can make full bottles expand, or even split at the seams. Try to take partially used bottles that have some unused space at the top
  • Consider carrying e-juice in a higher nic strength than you usually use, so you don’t have to bring as much
  • European Union countries (and some others) have a 20 mg/mL nicotine limit. If you vape anything higher than that, bring it with you!

What about CBD Oil and THC vapes?

For the most part, the same rules apply to CBD and cannabis vape devices as nicotine vaping gear. The big difference is that, generally speaking, you can’t take cannabis products like flower or THC oil cartridges on a plane—and even taking CBD through security is a gamble.

Can you take CBD oil or vape juice on a plane?

Although the TSA changed its CBD policy last year—following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp production in the United States—it’s still risky to travel with CBD, even if your CBD oil (tincture) or vape juice is under the 0.3% THC limit. Even though the Farm Bill legalized CBD manufacture, it offered no protections to consumers who possess and use the products.

State CBD laws vary greatly: from no rules at all, to completely legal, to illegal and punishable like any other kind of cannabis product. The TSA says it doesn’t search for illegal drugs specifically, but the agency’s policy is to hand anything suspicious over to airport security, which is usually local police. CBD arrests at airports unfortunately do occur. But even if you ultimately walk away, you could spend a long time waiting for your CBD products to be tested.

“Until the law is very, very clear, people are going to get arrested for possession of things that aren’t explicitly illegal,” says cannabis law expert Griffen Thorne. “The best thing for consumers to do is just not to bring it into any federal jurisdiction, period,” Thorne said. “Especially anywhere on a plane.”

The bottom line is that you’re still legally at risk carrying CBD products through airport security. The only absolute exception to that is if you’re carrying Epidiolex, the CBD-based drug approved by the FDA in 2018 to treat seizure disorders.

We recommend not traveling with CBD of any kind.

Flying with weed and THC vape cartridges

Flying with vape cartridges or weed is risky. In the U.S., cannabis is federally illegal. After you pass security at the airport, in the air, and until you exit the airport at your destination, you’re subject to federal laws, and can be charged with possession (or worse). While the TSA doesn’t actively search for drugs, they will turn you and your products over to airport security (usually local police) if they notice something. In some states and cities, local authorities may not care. In most they will.

Flying with empty vape pens or dry herb vaporizers is fine—as long as they’re completely clean of any cannabis residue. That means before you leave, get out Q-Tips and isopropyl alcohol and thoroughly scrub every millimeter of the vape, including the herb chamber, air path, mouthpiece, and even the outer surfaces. If you’re not certain that a drug-sniffing dog won’t be able to detect a molecule of cannabis in your vape, don’t take it with you.

Marijuana is illegal in most countries, and so are its concentrate, oil, and edible forms. If you’re not traveling to a country where cannabis is legal, remember that your dry herb vape or oil pen may be considered illegal contraband. Sometimes even countries where pot use is legal or tolerated have laws prohibiting possession of paraphernalia.

Flying with cannabis products is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Unless you live in Canada, and are flying between Canadian cities and not outside of the country, you’re likely to face problems. Even if authorities wind up letting you go, you might face an uncomfortable search, a long interview with security staff or police, and confiscation of your weed vapes. If you’re going to a country where it’s legal, it’s safer to simply buy and consume it there.

We recommend not traveling with cannabis or THC vape cartridges.

What to expect from airport security

Lots of people take e-cigs on airplanes these days, so airport security staff are used to them. There’s no need to be nervous about passing through TSA checkpoints and carrying a vape on a plane.

TSA rules for vapes

You already know the most important TSA vape rules: liquids in carry-on bags all go into a single 1-quart bag, and all electronic devices and lithium batteries must be carried onto the plane, and must go (along with the traveler) through security screening.

To the TSA, vaping devices are just another potential security threat. To prove that your huge 200-watt touchscreen mod isn’t an explosive, TSA screeners may ask you to turn it on, so make sure any device you carry onto the plane is charged. That probably won’t happen with smaller devices like vape pens or pod vapes, but since you’re not allowed to charge vaping devices on the plane anyway, you might as well charge everything at home before you leave.

Finally, if you carry a coil-building kit wherever you go, be prepared to explain why you’re traveling with suspicious items like spools of wire, screwdrivers, and wire cutters. Consider using an atomizer with pre-wrapped coils when you fly—especially to countries where vaping may be completely unfamiliar and you don’t speak the local language.

Vaping in airports and on planes: is it allowed?

With one exception, it’s illegal to vape in airports—and it’s always illegal to vape on a plane. The exception is a designated smoking lounge. There aren’t many of these tar-stained glass boxes left though, so don’t count on finding one.

You could break the rules and risk a citation, or even being ejected from the airport—which would mean missing your flight and defaulting on the price of your ticket. Once you board the plane, the risks grow. Can you bring a JUUL on a plane? Yes, but if you vape it, you’ll face the same penalties you would for smoking. You can be arrested and fined—or even jailed when you reach your destination.

A better idea is to find a suitable nicotine alternative to use while flying. Smokeless tobacco like snus, tobacco-free nicotine pouches, and nicotine gum and lozenges are all popular with nicotine users trapped in no-vape zones. They’re not as enjoyable as vaping, but they’re not going to get you in trouble with airport security either.

See you in the clouds!

Vapers have become an accepted part of travel culture, and with a little knowledge about the rules of air travel, we can peacefully co-exist with our non-vaping brethren in the friendly skies. If you’re a vaper taking a trip, a little planning will help your experience go smoothly.

But there’s no need to worry. Airport and airline staff have been dealing with vapers for more than a decade. As long as we respect the rules, we’ll get respect in return.

Have a great trip!

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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Mauricio Lozano Damm
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Mauricio Lozano Damm

Excellent article but there is one thing that needs to be corrected.
You mention that the e-liquid may expand with pressurization.
Liquids do not expand nor contract with pressure, it’s the air in the container that expands or contracts…

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