It might be hard to believe, but there's no law banning electronic cigarettes on commercial flights. It's something a member of New Jersey's congressional delegation is hoping to change.

Plane (Photo credit: Elena Elisseeva, ThinkStock)

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone said he has successfully lobbied to ban e-cigarettes in all places where tobacco smoking is prohibited in national parks, and he will now turn his attention to outlawing them on airplanes too.

“Most people think e-cigarettes are already banned on flights because most of the airlines do in fact ban them of their own accord, but it’s not required by federal law that they be banned,” said Pallone. “I think that e-cigarettes should be treated like regular cigarettes for all purposes.”

In early 2011, the U.S Dept. of Transportation said e-cigarettes were banned on flights, but there is no statute to back that up.

“I’ve asked the Dept. of Transportation to ban e-cigarettes on planes in the same way that they ban regular cigarettes. Various agencies say they’re looking into banning e-cigarettes on airplanes, but they haven’t officially taken a position yet and I’m trying to get them to take a position and take it in favor of treating the e-cigarettes the same way as regular cigarettes," Pallone said.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Georgia State University found that from 2010 to 2013, the use of e-cigarettes more than doubled among U.S. adults. Nearly 1 in 10, or 20.4 million people had ever tried the products at least once.

The surge of use is particularly troubling among young people.

According to the CDC, among middle school students, e-cigarette use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014. That was an increase from about 120,000 to 450,000 students and it marked the first time since the survey started collecting data on e-cigarettes in 2011 that current e-cigarette use has surpassed the current use of every other tobacco product overall, including conventional cigarettes.

"The problem is that a lot of people, particularly young people because they’re not regulated think they’re less harmful than regular cigarettes and that’s simply not true,” Pallone said.

On its website, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that the agency regularly receives voluntary reports of adverse events involving e-cigarettes from consumers, health professionals and concerned members of the public. Whether e-cigarettes caused them is unknown, but the adverse events described have included hospitalization for illnesses such as:

  • Pneumonia;
  • Congestive heart failure;
  • Disorientation;
  • Seizure;
  • Hypotension;
  • Other health problems.

Smoking traditional cigarettes has been banned on all U.S. airlines for the last 25 years. And while there's not an official federal ban on e-cigarettes, most airlines don't allow passengers to vape while abroad an airline.