Research published earlier this year finds that vaping, unlike smoking, does not increase the level of harmful indoor particles
Electronic cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until approximately 2010 that a substantial rise is their prevalence and usage occurred. This happened because the technology had advanced to the point that most interested smokers could now find something suitable for them. It was also right around this time that the first serious calls to action over their potential risk were mounted. Since then it’s been almost a constant attack on vaping, co-opted by many governments and the mainstream media.
Many of these concerns surround the question of whether or not second-hand vaping is dangerous like second-hand smoke is. With the visual similarities between the two practices, it’s not altogether surprising that this question gets asked over and over again. But generally, one very small study is referenced when discussing the potential risks. This particular study gets used so often because the authors went as far as to say that vaping deposits many harmful substances into the air, reducing the overall quality by a significant margin.
The 2014 study mentioned above indicated that vaping, even in a thoroughly vented room, was responsible for around a 20% increase in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as more than doubling the amount of aluminum in the air. They added that several other harmful substances were found at significant levels.
But taking a closer look at their procedure reveals some questionable methodology. The dataset used was only made up of nine test subjects, over six sessions. The researchers also failed to state many critical pieces of their test design. For instance, the type of vaporizers used, how high the level of nicotine was, and what the vaping procedure was. This leaves some critical questions unanswered, not the least of which is whether or not they tested intentionally unrealistic vaping scenarios. That type of test altering has been proven effective in garnering negative results in the past. If this is the case, it would ultimately discredit everything else they found.
Conversely, a recent study by researchers at San Diego State University found very different results while also looking at levels of harmful particles in indoor air. They took a look at over 300 households around the area and compared those that reported smoking and vaping vs. the ones that were smoke and vapor free. They installed monitoring devices in the homes to allow for consistent testing and data. Their results found no discernible difference between homes that allowed vaping and those that were smoke and vaping free, “We observed no apparent difference in the weekly mean particle distribution between 43 homes reporting any electronic cigarette usage and those reporting none.” Compared with a massive increase in harmful substances reported in houses where smoking was allowed indoors.
How Harmful Is Vapor?
While some still argue second-hand vapor is dangerous, many researchers agree that vaping is much less hazardous than smoking, even for the user themselves. More studies are published every month on the harm reduction value of e-cigarettes. Most notably, this includes the 2015 Public Health England study that found vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Those results encouraged the researchers to promote e-cigarettes as a useful smoking cessation tool.
Other studies have further proved the virtually non-existent risk to bystanders that vaping poses. One such study, published out of Drexel University, looked at over 9,000 cases of vaping affecting indoor air quality. They concluded that “current state of knowledge about chemistry of liquids and aerosols associated with electronic cigarettes indicates that there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces.” So basically, vaping passes the standard test required to prove safe air quality in the workplace.
Anti-vapers will quickly reference volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as being proof of e-cigarettes harm. But these claims were mostly debunked by a 2015 study by Spain’s Council of Scientific Research. That study looked for over 150 different VOCs in both aerosol vapor and cigarette smoke. What they found was that vaping produced no more VOCs than are typically found in human breath.
Ultimately, vaping is not smoking. There are thousands of different chemicals in cigarette smoke, and many have been proven to cause cancer. In comparison, e-liquid is only made up of a couple of substances, none of which are shown to be any more harmful to the body than nicotine alone. With this being the case, the only logical reason for such a significant amount of pushback against vaping are concerns that they may somehow lead to an increase in smoking rates for the first time in a long time. But these fears are entirely unfounded. Vaping has, on the contrary, been shown to be a hugely successful smoking cessation tool.
Do you think that second-hand vapor is dangerous? Should we be treating it like second-hand smoke? How can we better make the case that second-hand vapor is essentially harmless? Let us know what you think in the comments.