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Death & Disease

E-cigarettes’ sneaky secondhand vapor

Published Apr 11, 2022
Three teenagers vaping on a street

E-cigarettes and vaping devices are getting a lot of attention, in particular for their rising popularity among youth. Growing research is showing these products are harmful and highly addictive. But there’s another dangerous part of e-cigarettes that deserves attention for the people around it – the ultrafine mist that users inhale and exhale while vaping, exposing themselves, bystanders, and the environment to harmful materials.1

Despite what e-cigarette manufacturers would like us to believe about whether secondhand vapor is harmful, these products do NOT emit a harmless water vapor. It’s actually an aerosol with a mixture of dangerous chemicals.2 At least 10 chemicals identified in e-cigarette aerosol are on California’s Proposition 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals and reproductive toxins.3 According to the US Surgeon General, the e-cigarette aerosol could expose bystanders to harmful substances including: 

  • Nicotine
  • Heavy metals 
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs2

Exposure to fine and ultrafine particles may exacerbate respiratory ailments like asthma4 and are known to have an immediate negative impact on the cardiovascular system.5 E-cigarette use has also been shown to constrict arteries, which may cause a heart attack.6

What’s more, research is showing that newer versions of e-cigarettes and vaping devices produce more ultrafine particles compared to older models.7

For parents of teens, be aware that the US Surgeon General labels e-cigarette use among youth as an epidemic. Teen e-cigarette use surged by 78% last year, with one in four high school students now using these products which contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical.8 Even if your teen isn’t vaping, they may be breathing aerosol exhaled by someone else who is vaping, putting their health at risk.9

Take steps now to breathe clean air. Adopt tobacco-free rules, including e-cigarettes, in your home and vehicle.  Visit undo.org/secondhand-dangers to learn more about rising secondhand smoke and vape rates and find out what your city is doing to protect you. 

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Hold the industry accountable

California has already protected people from other harmful products, and it's time to hold the tobacco industry to the same standards.