E-cigarettes’ sneaky secondhand vapor: Is it harmful?
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:
- 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 and young adults, vape use remains an urgent public health concern in California. Currently, 5.6% of California teens use vapes while 11.2% of young adults use vapes, the highest among any group.8 These young adults were among middle and high school students during the height of the tobacco industry-created youth epidemic.9 Big Tobacco actively preys on youth to be “replacement customers” because their products kill their existing ones.10 And research shows kids who vape are three times more likely to be daily cigarette smokers in the future.11 Even if your teen isn’t vaping, they may be breathing aerosol exhaled by someone else who is vaping, putting their health at risk.12
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.
- U.S. Surgeon General. Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-cigarette Use Among Youth. e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. Published December 18, 2018. Accessed December 27, 2018.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.
- California Department of Public Health. State Health Officer’s Report on E-Cigarettes. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program; 2015.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. 2018. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24952.
- Qasim H, Karim ZA, Rivera JO, Khasawneh FT, Alshbool FZ. Impact of Electronic Cigarettes on the Cardiovascular System. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(9):e006353. Published 2017 Aug 30. doi:10.1161/JAHA.117.006353.
- Schweitzer RJ, Wills TA, Behner JD. E-cigarette use and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk. Current Epidemiology Reports. 2017;4(3):248-257.
- Protano C, Avino P, Manigrasso M, et al. Environmental Electronic Vape Exposure from Four Different Generations of Electronic Cigarettes: Airborne Particulate Matter Levels. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(10):2172. Published 2018 Oct 3. doi:10.3390/ijerph15102172.
- UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. AskCHIS 2021. Current e-cigarette use status. https://ask.chis.ucla.edu. Exported on March 17, 2023.
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-cigarette Use Among Youth. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/surgeon-general-advisory/index.html. Accessed August 29, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health 2016.
- Pierce JP, Chen R, Leas EC, White MM, Kealey S, Stone MD, Benmarhnia T, Trinidad DR, Strong DR, Messer K. Use of E-cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products and Progression to Daily Cigarette Smoking. Pediatrics. 2021;147(2):e2020025122. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-025122.
- U.S. Surgeon General. Know the risks. e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov. 2018. Accessed December 27, 2018.