Smoke from E-Cigs Still Poses Some Second-Hand Risk

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It’s not real tobacco smoke, but the emissions from electronic cigarettes can still contain harmful ingredients.

A new study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research shows that e-cigarettes generate enough nicotine emissions that they can be inhaled by those near a smoker. The researchers conducted two studies on three brands of e-cigarettes that investigated what the devices emitted into the surrounding air.

In the first study, the scientists used a smoke machine to “smoke” the cigarettes and then measure the concentrations of nicotine and other volatile organic compounds such as carbon monoxide released. They compared these emissions to those of standard cigarettes. Then, the team asked five male participants to smoke both tobacco and e-cigarettes in a room that measured contaminant exposure.

The found that e-cigarettes are a source of second-hand exposure to nicotine, but not of other compounds released when tobacco is burned. And the nicotine exposure was 10 times less than that from tobacco smoke.

However, another recent study from New York University researchers reported that e-cigarette smokers may not be spared such exposures. They inhale more nicotine because they puff more often and tend to breathe in more deeply than regular cigarette smokers. So higher nicotine consumption may be a risk for e-cig smokers.

Both studies suggest there’s much still to be learned about the health risks of e-cigarettes, including their effect not just on smokers but on those around them. The Food and Drug Administration currently does not regulate e-cigarettes, but has proposed a rule that would give the agency more regulatory power over the devices.