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Korean Air vows to eliminate smoking on board

National carrier working to eradicate practice after rise in in-flight smoking incidents

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It is illegal to smoke on the plane.

SEOUL - A sharp spike in e-cigarettes being smoked on the plane has caused Korean Air to spring into action, vowing strong action to eliminate smoking on board.

Smoking during flights is strictly prohibited by law due to the risk of inciting fires. In addition, smoking can cause discomfort to other passengers and can also wear down the in-flight air filtration equipment.

However, common use of e-tobacco in cigarette or liquid form has led to an increase in the number of in-flight smoking incidents. In 2018, 34% of e-cigarettes on board Korean Air flights were found to be smoked on the plane but, this year, the percentage of onboard e-cigarettes being smoked increased to 54%. Also, in addition to e-cigarettes being smoked in the lavatory, cases of smoking in cabin seats have become much more common.

Any passenger found smoking will be handed over to the local police immediately upon landing, regardless of the severity of the offence, warned the Korean national carrier.

Under South Korean law, a fine will be imposed if in-flight smoking, including that of e-cigarettes, is detected.

"The smoke detector attached to the airplane's toilet does not only detect regular cigarette smoke, but also that of e-cigarettes," a Korean Air spokesperson said. "Passengers' cooperation is essential to tackle in-flight smoking, including that of e-cigarettes, which is an illegal act that seriously undermines the safety of the aircraft and is harmful to the health of passengers."

Smoking e-cigarettes on the plane has been banned since 2008, when Korea's Ministry of Government Legislation ruled that e-cigarettes were also tobacco products. E-cigarettes can be brought on board, but they may not be charged nor smoked.

Smoking on flights, including that of e-cigarettes, is a common concern for airlines around the world as it undermines the safety of the flight.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), also strongly regulate smoking on board, including that of e-cigarettes.