Vaping Safer than Smoking with Miniscule Quantities of Hazardous Chemicals in Secondhand Smoke

By Lindsay Fox Posted October 18, 2012

Second Hand Vaping is HarmlessThis month’s issue of the journal Inhalation Toxicology carried the results of a study conducted to find more information about the constituents of e-cigarette vapor.


A detailed laboratory analysis was carried out to find out if vaping was safer than smoking and if the second hand vapor from e-cigarette smoke was as harmful as secondhand tobacco smoke. (McAuley TR, Hopke PK, Zhao J, Babaian S. Comparison of the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality. Inhalation Toxicology 2012; 24(12): 850-857)


In the study, 2 sets of experiments were carried out using generic 2-piece e-cigarettes and 4 different high nicotine containing e-liquids were vaporized. The emissions were collected and tested to assess the concentration of common by-products left behind by regular cigarette smoke. Tobacco cigarette smoke tests were also carried out to compare the results. The pollutants assessed in the test include carbonyls, VOCs, TSNAs, PAHs, glycols and nicotine. The concentration of these pollutants was assessed in the secondhand smoke left behind by both e-cigarettes and tobacco.


The study revealed that;


  1. Only a few of the chemicals that are usually present in second hand tobacco smoke were detected in e-cigarette vapor.
  2. The concentration of the few chemicals that were detected in secondhand e-cigarette vapor was way less when compared to tobacco smoke.


Among the chemicals detected, the only one that was significant was formaldehyde but the levels were very less when compared to tobacco smoke. A valid hypothesis is that formaldehyde could be formed as a result of propylene glycol heating up. Efforts have to be taken to figure out a way to reduce its formation during the vaporization process but this does not change the fact that the amounts are very less and pose no significant risk.


Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health states in a press release that this study confirmed the fact that health risks from the secondhand smoke of an e-cigarette is much less when compared to that of tobacco smoke. There is no justification in banning the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces and other public places like regular tobacco cigarettes.


Bill Godshall of Smokefree Pennsylvania also stated that the organization has been advocating bans on cigarette smoking in public places for more than 25 years but there is no reason that e-cigarettes must also be included in these bans.


Another statement was from Dr. Murray Laugesen of Health New Zealand who stated that the results revealed by this study confirm the findings of the various studies that he has been conducting for the past 4 years.


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