Vapes on a Plane?
It’s holiday season! We’re a couple of days post-Solstice, and the temperature is ramping up. Schools are out and thoughts are turning to where to spend a couple or more weeks of vacation time in or outside of China. For a lot of people, that means taking a flight either within China or somewhere further afield. As vapers, we keep our e-cigarettes with us pretty much at all times and so one of the most common questions is whether we can fly with them or not.
This is our guide about flying with your vape from or to Chinese airports, and while we’ve tried the best to be as accurate as we can the rules can change from time to time and also further restrictions may be applied at the discretion of security, customs and other officials, and also police officers. We have used the most recent legislation we can find and combined it with the real-world experience of our team and our customers. Most of our experience is with Shanghai’s Hongqiao and Pudong airports. We are not lawyers or Civil Aviation Authority experts and so take our comments below as our experience and not fact but we believe by following the guidelines below, you should be fine to travel with your vape, e-liquid and accessories and end up at your destination vaping happy!
Can I vape on the plane?
No. Lol. Even if you’re flying the plane (well, since January 2019 anyway - a quick search of "Air China" and "e-cigarette" will let you know why).
Can I vape at the airport?
Since China’s implementation of the national smoke free policy, smoking is banned in all indoor spaces including airports. However many airports will have designated smoking spaces where you can vape. Normally at arrivals and departures outside the airport these will be clearly marked, and it’s possible that some airports will have air side smoking areas which are outdoors.
Shanghai’s two airports have designated air side outdoor smoking areas.
Terminal 1 of PVG has two outdoor smoking areas; entrances are in the No.200-203 long haul terminal of the Domestic Departure Hall and in No.213-216 long haul terminal of the International Departure Hall;
Terminal 2 of PVG has three outdoor smoking areas; entrances are in No.219-221 and No.222-224 long haul terminal of the Domestic Departure Hall, and in the connective corridor terrace of the International Departure Hall.
Terminal 1 of SHA has two outdoor smoking areas; entrances are in the long haul terminal B1 of the Domestic Departure Hall and B17 of the International Departure Hall.
Terminal 2 of SHA has two outdoor smoking areas; entrances are in the No.41 and No.54 long haul terminal of the Domestic Departure Hall.
How do I fly with my vape?
It’s useful to discern here between the various parts of your vape. Your vape is made up of the tank (the bit that you put your juice into and stick your mouth hole around), and the mod (the thing you hold with your hands and that in turn holds the batteries that power your tank).
When passing through security control, almost all of the officials can recognise an e-cigarette. If for any reason they don’t understand the English for “electronic cigarette” you can tell them it is a 电子烟 (diànzǐyan).
Travelling with your tank:
Your tank contains juice, which is a liquid and which therefore falls under the liquid regulations. In theory, this means your tank should be empty and although in reality security officials are unlikely to ask you to empty your tank it has been known to happen, especially at Hongqiao airport.
If you do end up flying with a full tank, the air pressure difference is very likely to make your tank leak. For pod devices, this has been known to damage the device and for larger tanks could mean leakage of 4ml or more from the airflow holes, leaking onto whatever is next to it.
If your tank is in checked/hold luggage then wrap it in a sealed plastic bag (separate from your mod) to prevent any leakage onto surrounding objects. Even better, empty the tank before you fly and fill it back up on arrival.
If you’ve brought your tank into the cabin as carry-on and it’s full, take advantage of the free waterproof sick bag they give you and firstly place it in there so that if any leakage does occur, at least it is only on the inside of the sick bag. When placing it into the sick bag, place it upside down so that gravity is on your side – the airflow is on the bottom of your tank and so if the air in your tank is not trapped by a layer of juice and trying to force it’s way out it shouldn’t be able to leak.
Finally, when you reach your destination, the cabin doors have opened and the outside air pressure has equalised unscrew your tank to make sure the tank’s air pressure is also equalised, screw it back up and you should be ready to vape. Keep it in the sick bag while you disembark just in case and when you’re sure it’s not going to leak (and you’re in an approved area to use your vape) you can start vaping again!
Travelling with your mod:
The most important thing to remember about travelling with your mod is that it contains batteries. Travelling with batteries globally is extremely regulated, and for good reason. All batteries and devices containing batteries must be taken with you as carry-on/cabin luggage. They contain materials that can cause fires if misuse or an accident occurs, and e-cigarettes have been linked to many of these incidents.
During the flight, make sure your e-cigarette is turned off so that it can’t accidentally fire by itself. There have been incidents reported where the fire button of an e-cigarette has become depressed while in a pocket or in a bag which has caused overheating and fire.
Without wishing to sound melodramatic or overstate the risk, if anything unexpected (such as overheating, smoking or other potential fire-risk) happens mid-flight alert a member of the cabin crew immediately who will have the ability to deal with your e-cigarette including the use of fire-containment packages and training on how to extinguish lithium-ion fires that may occur in the cabin.
In terms of the battery itself, if your mod has an internal battery it will be dealt with much the same as a portable battery charger, i.e. it cannot be over 10,000 mAh (within China) and you may not be able to travel with more than two per passenger. The stated mAh will also be calculated as part of your overall battery allowance, which for most people will not be an issue. However if you are a photographer or travelling with drones and multiple batteries for video recording equipment could potentially be an issue to consider.
If your mod has removable, rechargeable batteries you can either keep these in the mod while passing through security and during your flight or alternatively secure them in such a way as to prevent short circuits. There are specific guidelines on what is acceptable, but we suggest using a designated battery box (free in-store) while you travel. As the batteries we use in our vapes sometimes are not packaged for consumer use, it is also important to make sure that they have written on them the mAh and nominal voltage of the battery.
When you receive a battery from us, there will be a white sticker that provides this information. Many customers remove the stickers without understanding their significance. Although they might not be the most attractive, no one is checking the aesthetics of your battery so keep them on just in case you need them 😊
In our own experience, if the batteries are kept in your mod security personnel will be fine to let you travel with them. If they are kept outside the mod and do not have the correct information on them they will be confiscated and disposed of at the airport.
How do I travel with extra batteries?
As mentioned above, any spare batteries should be protected from short-circuits, be clearly labelled with the relevant information and be within your designated battery allowance. We’ve known people to go through the airport with 20 18650s that were in sealed plastic boxes, correctly labelled and able to travel through the airport with no problem, but we would recommend travelling with a maximum of six batteries to be on the safe side.
How do I travel with my e-liquid?
E-liquids are subject to the regulations related to liquids that came into place a few years ago. Technically, 100ml plastic see through containers are the maximum allowable volume in your carry-on luggage. In reality, we’ve been stopped and had 100ml bottles confiscated at airports.
The most secure method of making sure your e-liquids get to your destination is to put them in your checked luggage. If you only have hand luggage, in our experience 60ml or smaller plastic bottles wrapped in a clear, sealable bag are the best way to proceed. We have free 30ml bottles in store if you’re travelling, and we’ll be happy to decant larger bottles for you if you let us know when placing an order.
The specific regulations are:
Liquid, aerosol, and gel will only be allowed in cabin baggage if they are kept in containers with volumes of no more than 100 ml each.
These containers must be carried in a transparent, zippered plastic bag. The bag's total volume must not exceed 1 liter.
Each passenger is allowed to carry only one such plastic bag.
The bag must be separated from cabin baggage and presented to security personnel for individual X-ray examination at the checkpoint.
Can I travel with my accessories?
In general, your checked luggage will be fine for almost everything we can think of that might be in your toolbag for rebuilding wicks and cotton.
If you’re only travelling with hand luggage, in general it’s best to remove anything that is bladed or could be used as a weapon. Although we’ve flown with all of our toolkit previously (and only had a set of pliers taken away) technically you are not allowed any bladed objects or tools on board and you risk having these confiscated. Keep your tool requirements to a minimum (for example your Allen wrench for RDAs/RTAs that might not be able to find easily at your destination) and just pick up a pair of scissors, a screwdriver and nail clippers to cut coil wire if really necessary after you land. Oh, but do remember to bring some cotton…
Does it make a difference if I’m flying domestic or international?
Technically, no. In our experience, security for international flights may be more lenient when it comes to e-liquid in big bottles than domestic security. However, follow our advice above and you should be fine.
Can I bring my vape and e-liquid into China?
Yes. If you’re travelling to China and concerned about whether you can vape here, you can stop worrying 😊. We have a lot of travellers to China who have heard about vape bans in Hong Kong and Macau who think these rules also apply to mainland China. As of today, you will have no problem bringing in your personal vape products to sue while you’re travelling. We can also send all our products to you anywhere in mainland China, including your hotel, so feel free to under pack and contact us for delivery.
Can I take my vape and e-liquid to “xxx” country?
This is a topic that comes up with increasing frequency, especially with people flying to Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan. Our advice is to check the local legislation, and from the feedback our customers have given us over the past five years the most extreme policing is in Singapore, then Taiwan, followed by Thailand – where many customers have spoken about vaping discretely with no problems. Wherever you travel in the world, make sure you’re aware of the local laws and regulations to stay out of trouble.
If you’re a regular customer or just stumbled across this guide because you’re travelling to China for the first time we hope you found it useful. Feel free to send us some feedback if you have any updates to this article or if you've experienced something different. If you need to find some e-juice, hardware or anything else while you’re here feel free to visit our online store or even better come and see us in person 😊