Experts divided on potential danger of second-hand e-cigarette fumes


Ryan Atkinson looks into the controversial, and dangerous, effects of vaping.

Unfortunately, even though many perceive vapes to be less harmful than cigarettes, some experts say exposure to second-hand fumes may be damaging. 

The use of vaping devices poses a moderate risk for users, but experts are divided on how much they affect those breathing in the second-hand fumes.

The number of e-cigarette users has risen over the last five years in London, according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The capital has taken to the electronic vaping devices. London has more than 180 vape shops and numerous events including Vape UK Jam, a three-day festival where those who work in the industry discuss vapes. 

Dr Scott Chiesa, a member of the Institute of Cardiovascular Science at University College London, says there are likely to be negative effects produced by e-cigarettes, but they are not as damaging as cigarettes. 

“Vaping does release some substances that have been shown to damage the arteries, but it is important to note that the dose released by vaping is much lower than that released by cigarettes,” he said. 

According to Dr Marcus Munafò, a Professor of Biological Psychology at Bristol University, second-hand fumes don’t pose a substantial health risk.

“While it’s theoretically possible there may be harm from second-hand vaping, it’s highly unlikely that these will be substantial enough to be a major public health concern,” he said.

However, opinion differs among medical professionals.

Dr Karen Wilson, head of paediatric medicine at Children’s Hospital in Colorado, USA, believes second-hand inhalation does have a negative impact.

“Several studies modelling this in animals have suggested an impact on those exposed,” she said.

Photo by Veronika Lukashevich

Legislation unveiled last month by the UK government indicates that vaping does pose moderate health risks to the user, and to those who breathe in second-hand fumes.

The recently rolled-out law, the Tobacco Products Directive, restricts e-liquid tank capacity and the amount of nicotine contained within them. It also requires products to contain the “appropriate health warnings”.

Some vape users are against the new legislation, believing the new rules to be restrictive and unfair.

“I am not happy.  I am going to stock up on my favourite vapes. I don’t think I will bother after the laws go through as the liquid won’t last long enough,” said James Brothwood, an e-cigarette user from Islington.

Others worry that inhaling these fumes could be endangering their lives. Carl Butler, a resident of the borough of Westminster, said: “As someone who has watched family members suffer from lung cancer after years of smoking [cigarettes], I worry that these vapes could have similar consequences.”

In many of London’s public areas there are no restrictions on vaping, meaning pedestrians could be exposed to potentially dangerous fumes while they are walking to work or going shopping. Some shops and other enclosed spaces also permit vaping while on the premises.

The NHS does not have a national policy against the use of vapes on their premises, but many restaurants, cinemas and popular tourist destinations across London have banned the use of e-cigarettes. Half of the pubs canvassed in Islington had policies against the use of these devices. 

Although vaping in the capital continues to rise in popularity, the government’s crackdown on the industry indicates an ongoing concern about the health implications of e-cigarettes.


Featured photo by Veronika Lukashevich