Is Second Hand Vapour Harmful?

While everyone with an interest in vaping fiercely debated the U.S.A. FDA’s infamous decision on e-cigs last week, a smaller yet much longer debate was raging on. In fact, this argument has been ongoing since roughly the beginning of e-cigs back in 2007. The debate? If second hand vapour is harmful or not.

Before we delve into this semi-complex issue, allow us to clarify our position (and the scientific position for that matter): inhaling anything will never be as healthy as inhaling oxygen. Any outside chemical component that reaches your lungs will have an impact on lung functionality. Whether that impact is major, negligible or somewhere in between those is the exact purpose of this article. So let’s take a closer look at this issue.

Not Much Data to Work With

There are no shortage of media outlets and actual doctors (“coincidentally” US based doctors) that have come out against e-cigs. Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior advisor for the American Lung Association, has noted that e cigs cause airway inflammation in the short term. Not to knock the ALA but, you know what? We’re just going to say it flat out: they have no morals. These types of statements aren’t one offs; they’re quite common. The FDA has put out report after report, which have said, “Various chemical substances and ultra-fine particles known to be toxic, carcinogenic and/or to cause respiratory and heart distress have been identified in e-cigarette aerosols, cartridges, refill liquids and environmental emissions.” As you can see, a lot of focus from both doctors and federal agencies has been put on the actual “toxicity” of electronic cigarettes. However, most of these groups tend to stay away from the question of “is second hand vapour harmful?”

The Bad

So far, this is essentially “the bad” in regard to what we have found on the question of is second hand vapour harmful:

  1. E-cigs contain toxins and carcinogens that are likely harmful to humans.
  2. Studies have found that e-cigs do produce second hand emissions with harmful substances.

That’s pretty much it. Basically, the fuss is all about “particles” being released as a vaper exhales from his/her electronic cigarette. What are the effects of this on people who don’t smoke tobacco or vape? Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), it seems like no anti-vaping bloc or individual can give a precise answer on this. The current answer boils down to fear mongering. No scientific data has been produced on exact levels and what the effects are or could be. Frankly speaking, it’s all smoke and mirrors. More importantly, much of the research conducted has been with certain types of e-cigs set at extremely high voltage levels – levels that the overwhelming majority of vapers don’t even come close to using when vaping on their e cig device.

The Good

Unfortunately, the pro-vaping community has not led much research into this field either, which has left us with little data to fight the FDA, CDC and other anti-vaping activists (specifically in the United States). Luckily though, we were recently fortunate enough to see the results of an in depth scientific study detailing the effects of second hand vapour which you can see here. The study used vapers who vaped on regular/normal e cigarettes (closed system e cigs – likely cig-a-likes) in a room with absolutely no ventilation which represents a worst case scenario. The results? “Following immediate exhalation, scientist[s] observed a rapid decay and evaporation of liquid vapour droplets, with levels returning to background levels within seconds.” The study went onto say that, “vaping indoors is unlikely to pose an air quality issue to bystanders and non-vapers.” To be fair, this experiment was conducted by Fontem Ventures – the conglomerate who operates Blu E Cigs, one of the largest e-cigarette manufacturers in the world. However, their study was further backed up by this comprehensive analysis. What does this mean exactly? Allow us to give a parallel example. You come home from work to find that your dog left rubbish all over your house. Your house now has a foul smell. You go and get the air spray freshener, stand back, and spray it in the air. The particles/mist from the spray slowly drop to the floor, roughly 1-2 meters away from you. Though many of them are toxic if you inhale a decent amount of it, within a matter of seconds, the air toxicity levels return to normal and you likely have not inhaled any of it. These sprays are FDA approved in the United States. Furthermore, the mist from these stay in the air a lot longer than vapour from e-cigs. So, where is the war on air fresheners? There are people advocating against their use but it’s mainly kept out of the mainstream media…whereas the effects of second hand vapour from ecigs are constantly in the spotlight. We’re not for conspiracy theories at all but – Big Tobacco? Absolutely. It has their name written all over it.

Draw Your Own Conclusions

Unless you are standing with your mouth wide open right next to someone who vapes, you are highly unlikely to inhale any second hand vapour. It simply dissipates too quickly. And if you are standing outdoors or in a room with good ventilation? It is almost impossible to inhale any second hand vapour. Additionally, from the data we currently have, there is minimal harm that is produced by vapour exhalation. We would love to see anti-vapers come out with unbiased research of their own about this, but we won’t hold our breath. It’s probably too much work and an impossible battle for them to fight, especially when they have the media doing their dirty work anyway.

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