Electronic Cigarettes Do Not Cause Second-hand Smoking

By John Madden Posted September 25, 2013

This article is part 10 of the Top 20 Rebuttals to Win an E-Cigarette Debate


Second Hand Vaping


Sensationalist news articles like this tend to run rampant as they attract a ton of, mostly negative, attention and views. Headings like “Second-hand smoke from e-cigarettes may be harmful to your health” mislead readers, many of which include politicians and lawmakers.


While we won’t argue against the studies that have found trace amounts of nitrosamines and VOCs in the electronic cigarette liquid, exposures from the vapor fall well below the threshold concern for compounds with known toxicity. Further studies have shown second-hand exposure to nicotine in e-cig vapor to be nonexistent. Any amount exhaled would be so minute that it would not have an effect on bystanders, as the vapor dissipates within seconds as opposed to minutes for smoke.


As I’ve discussed in the past, electronic cigarettes already contain a tiny, barely detectable fraction of the chemicals found in traditional tobacco cigarettes. They also have been shown not to contain any of the toxins in the amounts found in tobacco cigarettes and that they deliver very little nicotine in the vapor. So, given that the vapor already proves little, if any, danger to the actual user, any danger to bystanders by the exhaled vapor would be negligible.


Additionally, tobacco cigarettes create “side stream smoke,” which is the smoke that comes directly from the end of a lit cigarette and the smoke lingers in the air and travels a fair distance from the smoker. Electronic cigarette vapor does not behave in the same manner as tobacco smoke. There is no vapor produced by the device until the user activates it by inhaling, so no “side stream vapor” is created and the vapor dissipates very quickly.


Furthermore, the Inhalation Toxicology study I’ve cited in regards to public health published also showed that neither active nor passive vaping has any acute adverse effects on lung function among adult subjects.


In the event that a bystander would pass through the vapor, since it doesn’t contain the irritating toxins of tobacco smoke, it would likely be barely detectable beyond the faint scent of the flavor and only for a fleeting moment. But just because it may be safe for bystanders to inhale your passive vapor, doesn’t give you the right to go around blowing clouds in people’s faces. Use some vape etiquette and be respectful of your surroundings when in public. Unless you’re at a vape meet or outdoors, you might want to leave your sub-ohm builds at home.


Further reading:



Image credit: Long Beach Post

  • austin

    I’m an electronic cigarette smoker myself (just got my new Z-Max) I think this article gives the impression it should be okay to blow vapor around others. Alot of these juices produce a very potent smell, and even though perfume/cologne does the same, we blow it away from our body and potentially into other people, which can definitely be an iritant to some. I think the same unspoken rules should be applied e-cigs as cigarettes were at bars…avoid blowing smoke near non-smokers at all cost.

    • JoeM

      Just because second hand vaping isn’t harmful, it doesn’t mean people can blow vapor around others, especially in enclosed areas like restaurants. I vape frequently in public, but never when I’m surrounded by a group of people indoors. Some people find it irritating and some aren’t educated enough on the subject to know second-hand vaping is harmless. So why bother? there are enough places for us to vape so why be disrespectful. If I ever really have to get my nicotine fix, I just stealth vape somewhere where there aren’t many people around.

    • I agree, and actually addressed this at the end of the main article: “While the vapor produced by e-cigs has so far been proven far safer than tobacco smoke, it might be rude to sit in a crowded restaurant puffing thick clouds that travel onto a neighboring table.” But I’ll add an etiquette disclaimer here too. Thanks Austin.