When you use an e-cigarette, or vape, those vapours you exhale don't just magically disappear. Secondhand vapours are very much a thing, and they aren't healthy for anyone around you to breathe, especially young children.
Image via Vaping360.
Everybody's got an opinion on e-cigarettes. ask ten people about their safety and you'll get ten different answers. Fierce debates can rage because there just isn't a lot of data yet, but there are a few things experts can agree on. Let's look at the details.
While vaping is considered to be somewhat healthier than smoking regular cigarettes — because you aren't coating your lungs in carcinogenic tar — it still isn't a "healthy" practice by any means. As the US Surgeon General explains, the aerosol you breathe in when you use an e-cigarette contains harmful chemicals and ultrafine particles you can inhale deep into your lungs. Diacetyle, benzene, nickel, tin and lead are just some of the things found in e-cigarette vapours. And scientists are still trying to determine the health effects of other potentially harmful chemicals in e-cigarette fluid, as well as how they react when turned into aerosol via intense heat. Plus, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is still highly addictive no matter how you intake it.
Now, if you want to use an e-cigarette, that's completely up to you. It's your health and you can use or abuse it however you like. What's problematic is e-cigarette and vape users don't seem to realise those vapours are still breathable after they're exhaled. Much like secondhand smoke, secondhand vapours are a concern for everyone around a user, even if it the vapour is less visible than traditional cigarette smoke. A recent report conducted by Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggests one-third of adults who use e-cigarettes don't think secondhand vapours are harmful, and another 40 per cent said exposure only caused "little" or "some" harm to children. But make no mistake, just because it's not a real cigarette, there's still real danger.
In addition to the harmful chemicals already mentioned, the risks for kids exposed to these secondhand aerosol vapours include accidental nicotine addiction, mood disorders and a lowering of impulse control. Nicotine can also affect brain development in young people by changing the way the synapses in their brains are formed. Dr Brian King, the deputy director for research translation at the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, says lack of regulation, the "newness" of the products, and the way the industry promotes e-cigarettes as "healthier alternatives" contributes to the confusion. But don't fall for it; e-cigarettes and vapes aren't that different than regular ol' cigarettes, so take precautions when you use them. Plus, they can, uh, explode, so watch out for that too.