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Should you be concerned about second-hand vapor?

E-cigarettes have taken the smoking world by storm, yet there are plenty out there who still want to make you cautious about taking them. Their arguments are rarely based in fact, however, as they prefer to indulge in scare stories or often just flat-out speculation. While this isn’t all bad – go back 50 years and we could have done with knowing more about the risks of smoking – the fact is that we know plenty about vaping, and what information is out there suggests they are extremely safe and of no risk to you – and we’re going to lay it all out in this post.

One argument you’ll hear from vaping critics is one that has become synonymous with smoking: second-hand smoke, or, in this case, vapor. These critics will claim that the lack of information about vapor and second-hand vapor means it could pose harm to you and those around you. However, the reality is much different and we actually know plenty about second-hand vapor, or “environmental vapor” as it’s more commonly known as.

What we know about second-hand SMOKE

There are plenty of studies out there about second-hand cigarette smoke and the consensus appears to be that it can indeed be harmful. But initially, it was thought that second-hand smoke was much worse than more recent investigations have suggested. You always have to be careful about the studies you read, and find out who commissioned them and is carrying out, as there is typically an agenda behind the research.

For example, with second-hand smoke, much of the early reports cast massive warning signals because those conducting the research had a vested interest in negative information getting out there, even if it wasn’t totally accurate. The activists at work were keen to ban smoking in public places, and even eateries and bars. Hence, any “studies” that could point toward second-hand smoke being harmful were pushed, as this helped to make smoking a wider societal issue not just concerning those who smoked cigarettes, but also those often in the presence of smokers.

You may wonder what the relevance of these second-hand smoke stories are in an article about vaping. But they turn out to be very relevant given that these fact-free, agenda-driven “studies” about smoking are very similar to many of the general vaping studies that we are seeing today. Those usually conducting the studies aren’t keen on vaping, so they’re happy to paint it in as bad a light as possible to turn public opinion against it, as if to “denormalize” it. Take Dr. Jyoti Patel of Northwestern University, whose biggest argument for staying clear of second-hand smoke was to “change societal behavior”.

What’s important to glean from this is the methodology of those who want laws against smoking (and vaping). There’s no denying the risks of smoking, but that scientists and researchers have regularly dabbled in dirty tactics to turn people against it should be a worry, since if an argument devoid of facts can be successful, then a similar one could bring down vaping. Enough about smoking though, let’s get onto second-hand vapor.

Are there any risks associated with second-hand vapor?

This will probably come as no surprise to you, but there is absolutely no proof – and there almost certainly never will be – that second-hand vapor from an e-cigarette or any kind of vaporizer is in anyway harmful.

Not for the want of trying, however. You’ll likely come across a few pieces of research out there that hint that there may be something up, but given the wealth of solid, trusted and more comprehensive research out there opposing this viewpoint, there’s no reason why you should take it seriously.

Nicotine Without Smoke

So, more about that solid, trusted and comprehensive research. The Royal College of Physicians came out with the fullest and best-known study on the matter, and they didn’t take long to discard any nonsense science about the risks of second-hand vapor in “Nicotine Without Smoke”. The physicians stated that since e-cigarette vapor is exhaled (which could then up on surfaces or walls) then naturally others may then re-inhale it. However, as the potential dosages from doing so are so minimal that there’s no way the body could be caused any harm, even with the vapor e-liquids boasting the strongest nicotine concentrates.

In addition to “Nicotine Without Smoke”, other studies found that nicotine exhalation from e-cigarettes was just one-eighth of that from actual cigarettes. Meanwhile, since there is no “lit” part of an e-cigarette, there is far less vapor emitted than there would be smoke from a cigarette, which continues to burn even when the smoker isn’t taking a draw – since the risk of passive smoking comes predominantly from this act of smoking, the danger posed from vaping is far, far lower. Furthermore, another study found that nicotine residue left from vaping was nearly 170 times lower than the residue left from smoking. Consider all of these points together, and you can see why the threat from vaping is so negligible.

Peering Through the Mist, by Igor Burstyn

There’s nowhere better to continue than with Drexel University’s Igor Burstyn, who produced the “Peering Through the Mist” vaping review. This huge study was conducted by extrapolating from more than 9,000 e-cig vapor observations, all of which can be searched for on PubMed, and developing a vapor consensus from there.

Burstyn was keen to find out what the risks were, using the notion that vapers would probably be prepared to accept some risk from vaping, while those surrounding them would not be. Notably, Burstyn’s final conclusions insisted that there was no information out there to indicate that second-hand vapor could pose any risk to bystanders and that the potential risk to the vapers was very minimal. Burstyn did note that should the science behind propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine and its inhalations change, that the risk to vapers could change slightly, but that this wouldn’t have any impact on bystanders.

Burstyn’s work was mainly focussing on the risk to vapers from vaping, compared to risks that would flag up concerns on the occupational exposure standards (workplace exposure to substances). The great news is that Burstyn made a great quote in his research about second-hand vapor. “Exposures of bystanders are likely to be orders of magnitude less, and thus pose no apparent concern,” said Burstyn.

What we can draw from this is that even vapers don’t need to be too bothered about vaping, and that the potential threat of vapor is so many times lower than that still. Hence, it’s not even worth considering the arguments of those who want to damage vaping, since they aren’t grounded in anything substantive.

Anything else?

We’ve bombarded you with information, but there’s even more to throw at you!

Imperial Tobacco’s Fontem Ventures (take this one with a pinch of salt given they funded the study) found that vapor from e-cigarettes disperses rapidly and doesn’t linger like cigarette smoke tends to, hence eliminating any perceived dangers.

Hilariously, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, who worked on a Spanish Council of Scientific Research study, found that e-cigarette vapor was even less of a risk than normal indoor air! The research concentrated on 156 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with the study finding more in indoor air than vapor.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute carried out a study on e-cigarettes, zoning in on nicotine, carbon monoxide, particles and VOCs. While there was a limited nicotine second-hand exposure from vaping (1o times lower than that from smoking) the scientists were quick to quell concerns. While there may be a very limited nicotine exposure, bystanders aren’t subject to anything toxic from vaping.

With this in mind, you can see how the denormalization warriors are up to their old tricks in order to ruin the vaping name. Scientific research continues to denounce their claims in a much more complete argument than they could ever hope to formulate themselves.

Final thoughts

If you look at where we were at the start of the article, considering what risks there could be to second-hand vapor, then you can see that we’ve come a long way. Time after time, studies have found nothing that should even give vapers reason to worry, never mind bystanders! That said, as vapers we still have a duty not to shove it in other people’s faces, so to speak. Others may not like the smell or the sight of the clouds, so just from a common decency angle, it’s only right to exercise some discretion when vaping in public.

But what we wanted to clear up here were any real risks to bystanders’ health, as have been roused by the anti-vapers of this world. In explaining how denormalization proponents operate, you’re better equipped – with these studies! – to show them and others why they are wrong.

However, it’s vital that we get this information out there, as the laws against vaping help to attach negative connotations to it – if a restaurant bans it, the average citizen will assume it’s for health reasons. But you know better, so make sure that others do too!

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