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Nov 04 2021 0 Comments

Second-hand vape: is it harmful or not?

is secondhand vaping harmful

When vaping initially gained tremendous popularity, it was hyped as a better and healthier solution to cigarette-related problems. Nevertheless, a recent increase in sicknesses, hospitalization reports, and deaths associated with vaping products has changed the conversation.

There are few products that are highly addictive and widely used by youths, causing what is being referred to as the nicotine epidemic. Besides, it’s been established that it’s not only those who actively use these products who face harm but other people in the vicinity as well who we referred to as passive or secondary users. Passive users breathe in secondhand fumes, and this phenomenon is dubbed “secondhand vaping.”

Are you safe to bogart an e-cigarette or sit in the same hall with an e-cigarette bogarter? Well, there are potential dangers of exposing yourself to secondary vapor. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control, one of the world’s leading causes of evadable diseases and deaths is tobacco consumption. From that evidence, anything that lowers the rate of contracting tobacco-related disease and deaths improves the overall health.

What is secondhand vaping?

Just like bystanders around traditional cigarette smokers can inhale smoke, they will breathe in aerosols from vapers around them in the same way. This is what we refer to as secondhand vaping and it contains pollutants although it doesn’t produce as many harmful chemicals as ordinary cigarettes. You don’t necessarily need to be in close quarters with the smoker to experience the harsh pollutants from the aerosol. According to research conducted in 2014, the quality of indoor air is adversely affected when people vape even in a well-ventilated room.

Ultra-minute particles from the vapor can penetrate the lung cells of other people around e-cig users. Another study conducted in 2018 discovered that other than nicotine, the aerosol contains traces of heavy metal, flavoring products, volatile organic compounds, carcinogenic chemicals, et al.

These harmful ingredients contribute to potential health risks posed by passive vapers. From the studies, it’s true that “smog” emitted by vapes contains poisonous elements that can harm secondhand vapers. Some of the toxins include:

  • Heavy metals: include tin, lead, and nickel. Mech mods, sub-ohm tanks, vape pens, box mod vapes, and all types of vapes use metallic heating elements (coils) to vaporize vape flavor. Due to the high temperatures and through wear at tear after repeated use, some traces of these metals get dislodged and escape via the aerosol.
  • Acrolein: glycerin is one of the main ingredients of vape flavor. At high temperatures, glycerin forms a compound referred to as acrolein which is associated with the irritation of the respiratory tract and delicate lung tissues. This can result in respiratory illnesses like lung and throat cancers.
  • Formaldehyde: at high temperature, glycerin and propylene glycol (PG) forms a formaldehyde compound that’s actively absorbed in the lungs. In high doses, formaldehyde is carcinogenic and causes various types of cancers.
  • Diacetyl: this is a common flavoring additive in most vape flavors. Besides, diacetyl has been associated with a severe lung infection referred to as Obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) or “popcorn lung” – initially discovered in a popcorn factory in Jasper, Missouri where diacetyl chemical was widely used.
  • Benzene: classified as a volatile organic compound, the colorless and sweet-smelling compound may have severe health effects. For instance, benzene is linked to irritation of the lung.

How does secondhand vaping work?

A proportion of e-cigarette fans have expressed their views on banning cigarette smoking in public places praying this shouldn’t be extended to vapes. They have been acting on the belief that e-cigs aren’t harmful but how do you expect them to agree? They are just deluded. City dwellers understand how it takes to deal with all sorts of air pollution coming from hooting motor vehicles, firefighter sirens, emissions from cars, decomposing garbage, and factories, and other agents. We are already fed up with these nuisances.

We’re suffering from these constituents of pollution, and we don’t expect anything beyond that. Although e-cigs don’t burn, they produce vapor from the vaporized liquid. Vapor from these devices contains hazardous ultra-fine particles and heavy metals that adversely affect the air quality posing health risks to persons around the vapers.

The amount/concentration of these toxins depends upon various factors like quality of vape flavor, type of vaping device, style of vaping, amount of power applied on the vape, number of vapers at a particular period, and their frequency of vaping.

When active (firsthand) vapers exhale, the aerosol ingredients get dislodged on surfaces like door handles, walls, table surfaces, chairs, utensils, et al. bystanders and other people can be easily exposed to these elements when they come into contact with the contaminated surfaces. This phenomenon is referred to as third-hand vaping and it’s as harmful as secondary vaping.

Is secondhand smoking harmful?

To answer this question correctly, you should have in your mind what it takes to have healthy lungs. It’s as simple as breathing in “clean” air free from all kinds of pollutants and other particles. E-cigarette aerosols aren’t considered clean air, so it’s clear vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful to your health. That’s why anti-smoking crusaders continue to evangelize the dangers of smoking and educate the public about the facts about tobacco use (vaping included), and encouraging people to advocate for smoke-free environments.

Now that governments have gazetted public places and workplaces as smoking-free zones, it’s equally important to include vapes and related products under smoke-free law. This will protect innocent bystanders from secondhand vape emissions as the cocktail isn’t safe for people to inhale. There is evidence that passive vapers exposed to aerosols from active vapers absorb some levels of dangerous pollutants into their bodies. Along with nicotine and ultra-fine particles, these toxins increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.  

What are the side effects of secondhand vaping?

Studies have revealed that passive exposure to vaping aerosols poses potential side effects to bystanders, especially vulnerable populations like kids, teens, people with pre-existing respiratory diseases, and expectant mothers. The rate at which “innocent” people are deliberately or unwittingly exposing themselves to this looming danger is the cause of concern besides the laid-down restrictions regarding consumption of vaping products by municipalities, federal agencies, and global authorities.

Much of this secondhand exposure comes from people we live with, for example, when a man is vaping in the living room, he’s exposing his pregnant wife, toddler, and teenage son to secondhand vapor. They will indeed suffer the consequences of secondhand vaping. Some population is most affected by secondhand vaping as described below:

1. Teens

Teens and young adults are reportedly viewed as the leading vaping population; it appears like the health of these younger folks is at stake as dangers of vaping are concerned. A study conducted in 2018 showed that one-third of high-school and middle-school goers reported having been exposed to vaping, directly or indirectly as passive bystanders.

Other studies have hinted that vaping among young people has turned to be an epidemic. Some well-known firms and personalities have faced criminal charges for committing offenses linked to employing deceptive marketing strategies meant to woo minors to their products.

Teenagers are usually easily influenced by peer pressure compared to their elder generation. It’s even hard for them to exit from some social circles that pose danger for their health and other social crimes. Some don’t dare to report these wrongdoings for fear of being ridiculed, bullied, or hurt in the worst cases.

2. Infants and kids

Vape aerosols pose a great risk to toddlers and kids because their respiratory systems are in the developing stage. Previous studies have shown exposing toddlers to components of vape aerosol even in their lowest concentration has adverse effects on their brain and lung development.

Also, exposing children to secondhand vaping increases their chances of contracting allergic reactions. Food allergies are a typical example. For instance, nuts are commonly used to supplement flavoring in vape flavors. If a kind ingests or comes into contact with vape flavor with such an allergen, they can experience these reactions. For this reason, some governments through their respective Food and Drug authorities are restricting a good number of flavored vaping products.

3. Expectant mothers

Nicotine exposure especially during pregnancy is life-threatening to the fetus, no debate about that. Some of the effects of nicotine exposure are stillbirths, preterm deliveries, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, impaired respiratory system development, and impaired brain development.

4. People with pre-existing ailments

People with pre-existing respiratory diseases are at a deadlier risk of being affected by vaping aerosols. Conditions like asthma, pneumonia, and other related ailments might aggravate when these victims are exposed to secondhand vaping. For instance, if you have a pre-existing asthmatic condition and you happen to be exposed to passive vaping, the ingredients in the aerosol may irritate your lung airways causing an asthma attack.

Diacetyl, a common flavoring in vape flavors triggers cilia impairment in lung airways. The function of cilia is to keep the air from passing away by removing mucus and dirt. Cilia impairment is associated with chronic lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Prohibiting vaping in public places to curb effects of secondhand vaping

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared tobacco smoking a potential health risk, most governments across the globe have implemented several policies to regulate tobacco consumption like increasing taxes, legislating smoke-free laws, and holding information campaigns. The majority of countries are covered by regulations requiring airports, public transport, restaurants, bars, hospitals, workplaces, et al., to be utterly smoke-free.

Prohibiting smoking in public places has not only lowered the exposure to secondhand smoke among passive bystanders but has also motivated tobacco users to quit smoking, prevented initiation among admirers like adolescents, and lowered the allure of smoking. The tremendous popularity and consumption of vape flavors is a cause of alarm, considering their emissions are harmful to human health. While some governments prohibit the sale and marketing of vaping products to minors, for example, New Zealand, others like the UK and US governments have prohibited the consumption of vaping products in public places.

Vaping in public places fosters various dangers. First, vaping in public places may encourage experimentation and ultimately uptake by nonsmokers, especially the youths; cause nicotine dependence, and introduce you to consuming combustible tobacco. Secondly, it might create a perception of normalizing smoking and undermine the efforts established to cast the behavior as an unwelcome habit in public. That said, smoke-free restrictions should be extended to vaping.

Tips for vapers

If you’re disturbed by your vaping behavior and you’re worried it may affect others, the best solution is to quit the whole mess. But it’s not that easy or in any case, it’s not realistic for someone who has already invested in vaping. There are other things that you can do to avoid this nuisance to people around you like:

1. Vaping outside

If you want to vape, do it outside the house, car, restaurant, or anywhere where your family, friends, workmates, or bystanders are. Keep the air inside, and all surfaces free from these dangerous contaminants so that you don’t expose others to the harmful aerosol.

2. Avoid vaping around kids, or other vulnerable persons

Toddlers, kids, expectant mothers, and people with pre-existing conditions are at very high risk for adverse impacts from being exposed to vape aerosol.

3. Avoid flavored vape flavors

Some ingredients used to prepare vape flavor such as diacetyl chemicals have been implicated as potential causes of severe lung infections.

4. Using low-powered vape

Different types of vapes generate varying amounts of vapor and ultimately the amount of aerosol emitted. Low-powered vapes with low-temperature settings produce fewer vapor clouds, less harmful aerosol to the vapers and people around them.


Although exposure to secondhand vaping may appear like no big issue, you shouldn’t be fooled by those sweet aromas. The aerosol from those lovely-looking box mods and sub-ohm tanks contains as many harmful chemicals as those first-hand vapers expose themselves to. To be safe from these hazardous chemicals, simply avoid secondhand aerosols.

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