Many anti-vaping advocates often claim that vapor from ecigarettes is as harmful for bystanders as tobacco smoke and therefore these devices must be banned from all public places. Shedding some light on this matter are two medial studies that examined the composition and effects of vaporized eliquid on people standing in the proximity.
Researchers and regulators have always questioned whether e-cigarettes are a smoking cessation aid or may lure more young people toward smoking, as well as what effects they have on health.
Maciej L. Goniewicz, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Department of Health Behavior at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York is the co-author of two studies that analyzed secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapors in a laboratory.
"There is ongoing public debate whether e-cigarettes should be allowed or prohibited in public spaces," Goniewicz said "E-cigarettes contain variable amounts of nicotine and some traces of toxicants. But very little is known to what extent non-users can be exposed to nicotine and other chemicals in situations when they are present in the same room with users of e-cigarettes.”
For thе first tеst Profеssor Goniеwiϲz and his ϲollеaguеs usеd an еlеϲtroniϲ smoking maϲhinе to gеnеratе vapor in an еnϲlosеd laboratory spaϲе. Thеy thеn rеϲordеd thе amount of niϲotinе as wеll as ϲarbon monoxidе and othеr potеntially harmful toxins and partiϲlеs in thе room.
The second study was focused on 5 men who were dual users of both tobacco and ecigs. Each of these subjects entered the laboratory room and vaped their favorite brand of ecigs for two five-minute intervals over the period of an hour while the scientists measured the air quality. After the room was ventilated, the same experiment was repeated but this time with real tobacco cigarettes.
In the first study, Professor Goniewicz and his team recorded nicotine levels of 2.5 micrograms for every cubic meter of room air and about 3.3 micrograms for every cubic meter of room air in the second study when it comes to electronic cigarettes. In the case of tobacco smoke, the results were more dramatic, with levels at around 32 micrograms for every cubic meter, meaning ten times higher.
"The exposure to nicotine is lower when compared to exposure from tobacco smoke. And we also know that nicotine is relatively safer when compared to other dangerous toxicants in tobacco smoke," Goniewicz said.
Ecigarettes produced though some particulate matter but their tobacco counterparts produced about seven times more. Also ecigs didn’t affect the quantity of carbon monoxide or other gases in the air. "What we found is that non-users of e-cigarettes might be exposed to nicotine but not too many toxicants when they are in close proximity to e-cigarette users," added Goniewicz.
In conclusion, the two studies show that bystanders are exposed to very low levels of nicotine from e-cigarette vapor, but none of the other harmful substances found in tobacco smoke, which most experts agree that are hazardous to human health.
But just to clarify, no one is claiming that electronic cigarettes are perfectly safe and have no long term effects. Non-smokers should keep away as there is no reason to inhale anything else but clear air, but for smokers and especially heavy smokers is a less hazardous alternative to the tons of toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco smoking.
It’s pretty clear that much more research is needed in order to have an objective and realistic point of view on the effects of second hand vapor on users and bystanders but we can’t ignore such studies as they offer a glimpse on what is really happening.