With the rise in popularity of vaping, many non-vapers have started to ask – is vape smoke bad second hand? Secondhand smoke from traditional tobacco cigarettes was bad enough. Emitting at least 70 cancer-causing chemicals, even brief exposure is dangerous.
Now there’s a new danger from harmful secondhand aerosol produced by e-cigarettes (vaping). Like tobacco smoke, aerosol can stay in the air and be involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers. The U.S. Surgeon General in answer to the question ‘is second hand vape smoke harmful’ says there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke or aerosol. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
Toxic e-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful chemicals including:
- Fine and ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust
- Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead2
While many Californians have made the choice to not allow smoking or vaping inside their own homes, apartments and condominiums, millions may still be exposed to secondhand smoke and aerosol.3
Smoke and aerosol can enter through:
- Ventilation systems
- Cracks in the walls
- Light fixtures
In fact, toxic secondhand exposure can cause asthma in children who have previously not had any symptoms.3 Other health effects on children from secondhand smoke exposure4 include:
- Low birth weight and lung problems in infants
- Acute lower respiratory tract infections (bronchitis and pneumonia)
- Middle-ear infections
- Chronic respiratory symptoms or problems
Secondhand smoke and aerosol is also absorbed into walls, floors, furniture, clothes, toys, and other household surfaces after it is exhaled. Chemicals in the smoke can then be recycled into the air for hours, days, and even months.5 Airing out rooms or separating smoking from nonsmoking units within the same building does not always provide protection.
Not allowing smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to completely prevent exposure to the dangers of secondhand smoke in your home. Owners of apartment buildings have the right to make their buildings smoke-free. Landlords can actually save money in cleaning costs when preparing a unit that a smoker lived in for a new tenant (see the Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing Calculator for more). According to a 2010 study, on average, it costs nearly $5,000 more to prepare a smoking unit for a new tenant than it does to prepare a nonsmoking unit.6
You can protect yourself from toxic secondhand smoke and aerosol. Contact your local Health Department if you want additional help or information. And, if you have a medical condition made worse by secondhand smoke drifting into your home, federal and state disability laws might help you address the problem (visit ChangeLab Solutions for free resources). Depending on the nature of your disability, landlords may be required to make changes to reduce your exposure.