Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Study Finds that Vaping Does Not Expose Bystanders to Carbon Monoxide or Volatile Organic Compounds

A new study published online ahead of print in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research reports the results of an experiment in which vapor from electronic cigarettes was generated in an experimental chamber, either by a machine or by human users. The investigators measured the levels of nicotine, carbon monoxide, and 11 volatile organic compounds.

There were two major study findings:

1. The electronic cigarettes did not produce detectable levels of carbon monoxide or any of the 11 volatile organic compounds, which included benzene, toluene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, styrene, naphthalene, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, 1,3-dichlorobenzene, and 1,4-dichlorobenzene.

2. The electronic cigarettes did produce nicotine, but the levels were 10 times lower than those from tobacco cigarettes.

The study summarizes the results as follows: "The study showed that e-cigarettes are a source of secondhand exposure to nicotine but not to combustion toxicants. The air concentrations of nicotine emitted by various brands of e-cigarettes ranged from 0.82 to 6.23 µg/m3. The average concentration of nicotine resulting from smoking tobacco cigarettes was 10 times higher than from e-cigarettes (31.60±6.91 vs. 3.32±2.49 µg/m3, respectively; p = .0081)."

The study concludes as follows: "Using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose nonusers to nicotine but not to toxic tobacco-specific combustion products."

The Rest of the Story

Because only three brands of electronic cigarettes were tested, these results should be viewed as preliminary. Nevertheless, this study does add to the literature suggesting that electronic cigarettes do not emit toxic chemicals at levels that pose any substantial risk to bystanders. Further research is certainly warranted, but at the present time, any risk from secondhand vaping appears to be minimal.

Because nicotine is highly absorbed in the upper respiratory tract, it is as yet unclear whether vaping in public places produces significant exposure to nicotine among nonsmokers. Also, this study was conducted in an experimental chamber and it is not clear what real-life nicotine exposure would be in situations where vapers are using electronic cigarettes in a public place.

However, we do know that the nicotine exposure with passive vaping  is much lower than that associated with secondhand smoke (which is quite low to begin with). Since it appears that the nicotine exposure associated with passive vaping is about 10 times lower than that associated with passive smoking, we are probably talking about miniscule levels of nicotine exposure.

Moreover, there is now no question that electronic cigarettes are much safer than smoking and secondhand vaping is much safer than secondhand smoking.

In light of this study, it becomes unfathomable that researchers from NYU have declared that vaping is more hazardous than smoking. And it becomes just as unfathomable that a number of anti-smoking researchers and groups continue to claim that there is insufficient evidence to show that vaping is less hazardous than smoking.

This research confirms that the following groups, which claim that we don't have enough evidence to determine that vaping is safer than smoking, are making unfounded, inappropriate, and damaging arguments (click on links to view the claims being made by each group):

American Legacy Foundation

Food and Drug Administration

American Lung Association

Tobacco-Free Coalition of Hancock County

Tobacco-Free Coalition of Delaware County

Southern Nevada Health District

This research also demonstrates how irresponsible is the advice that the World Health Organization and Department of Health and Human Services are giving smokers (i.e., "do not quit using electronic cigarettes").

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