Despite an increasing amount of literature being published on just how bad vaping can be for us and those around us, the vaping trend still continues. It’s not unusual to walk down the street into a pink cloud of bubblegum vape, which means that if you have a child or a pet with you, it’s likely they’re going to be walking through this too. And inhaling it. If you're anything like me, you probably consider your pets as more than just animals; they become our babies, best friends, companions, and stress-relievers. We love them *so* much and take such great care of them, but there's one aspect that I never hear people talking about and that's the potential effects of second- and third-hand smoke - particularly the byproducts of a vape - not just on us, but also on our furry friends.
Second-hand smoke seems quite an abstract topic until you start to look into the science and the research. When you do, it becomes very clear why vaping is not a ‘fun’ habit at all and is really quite a dangerous and toxic activity for you and those around you.
So, what exactly is second- and third-hand smoke?
When someone is actively smoking or vaping, it's referred to as first-hand smoke. They are ingesting the smoke or aerosol directly into their lungs.
Second-hand smoke and vaping aerosols are produced when tobacco is burned or heated through cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, or electronic cigarettes/vapes and it is consumed by an individual other than the person who was directly smoking it. While it might seem like someone else’s smoke won’t impact you directly, studies are now showing that exhaled vape aerosols contain propylene glycol, glycerol, flavorings, and nicotine, as well as acetone, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, propanal, diacetin, and triacetin.
Third-hand smoke refers to the residual smoke (or chemicals) that clings to surfaces like carpets, walls, furniture, clothing, hair, and toys, long after a cigarette has been put out or the vape has been put down. These toxins and chemicals from other people's vapes can linger in our environments and start to impact our health in the short, mid and long term, and science is starting to look into this too.
What this means is that it’s not just first-hand smoking that can be dangerous for us, our children and our pets. Smoke, chemicals and harmful substances from second- and third-hand smoke, along with vaping aerosols, can be inhaled into our bodies, and the bodies of our pets, when we breathe in the contaminated air and can do some damage. In fact, a recent study has shown that in real-use conditions, non-smokers who were exposed to conventional cigarette smoke and electronic smoking devices (ESDs) aerosol absorbed similar levels of nicotine, despite not actually being the active smoker!
The Science Behind The Smoke
The presence of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals in second- and third-hand smoke poses serious risks, leading to various health problems. Some of the health risks associated with exposure to second and third-hand smoke, as well as vaping aerosols, include:
- Chemical Exposure: At least 10 chemicals identified in ESD aerosols are listed as carcinogens and reproductive toxins under California's Proposition 65. These chemicals include acetaldehyde, benzene, formaldehyde, nicotine, and more, posing a significant health risk to both humans and animals.
- Respiratory Problems: Inhaling these harmful substances can lead to various respiratory issues, exacerbating conditions like asthma and causing coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.The impact on lung cells has also been investigated and studied, with studies concluding that exposure to ESD aerosols and vape flavorings, particularly cinnamon, can lead to increased oxidative stress and inflammatory responses in human lung cells, indicating potential damage to the respiratory system.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: The chemicals in smoke and aerosols can constrict arteries, potentially leading to cardiovascular problems and even triggering heart attacks. Other studies have shown that vapes containing carbonyls may have cardiovascular toxicity. Although ESD aerosols have lower toxin levels than tobacco smoke (which is why some people think they are healthier and ‘less toxic’), they can still pose significant cardiovascular risks, especially when exposure is frequent.
- Cancer: Second- and third-hand smoke contain carcinogens, which are known to increase the risk of various types of cancer, including lung, throat, and mouth cancer as well as reproductive toxins..
- DNA Damage: Exposure to these harmful substances can cause DNA damage, potentially leading to genetic mutations and other health complications.DNA Fragmentation: A recent study has found that human lung cells exposed to vape nanoparticles exhibit signs of inflammatory stress and DNA fragmentation too. DNA fragmentation refers to the process in which the DNA strands in a cell are broken into smaller pieces. This damage to the genetic material within the cells can have adverse effects on cellular function and overall health.
Other adverse impacts include: Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and respiratory distress and disease. In one study, it was found that vape aerosol contained particles consisting of tin, silver, iron, nickel, aluminum, and silicate, as well as smaller nanoparticles of tin, chromium, and nickel. The concentrations of nine out of eleven elements in ESD aerosol were higher than or equal to the corresponding concentrations in conventional cigarette smoke.
Not quite what many of us expected - so, what next?
The good news is that as of July 1, 2023, 1,035 municipalities, plus 26 states, commonwealths, and territories restricted e-cigarette use in 100% smoke-free venues. When you start to understand the science behind the smoke, I fully support this, but for me, I like to take additional precautions too.
Tips and Tricks For Saying No To The Smoke
Here are some important actions to protect yourself and your loved ones, including pets, from the harmful effects of second- and third-hand smoke and vaping aerosols:
- Choose Smoke-Free Locations: When going out, try to meet friends, family and loved ones at places where smoking or vaping is not allowed. I prefer to opt for smoke-free environments to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and aerosols. Be sure to move tables or even venues if someone starts vaping or smoking next to you. There is no shame in prioritizing your health.
- No Smoking or Vaping Indoors: Make your home and car smoke-free and vape-free zones for friends and family too. Even if the smoker or e-cigarette user leaves, the harmful chemicals can linger in the air for a long time.
- Be Mindful of Airflow: If you have come into contact with second- and third-hand smoke, keep fresh air moving through your apartment or car where possible. Open the windows and keep them open!
- And always use Caution with Air Cleaners: most air cleaners are full of their own harmful chemicals too, same with some candles. Many of these products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other potentially harmful chemicals that can contribute to indoor air pollution. Opt for fragrance-free or naturally scented alternatives, such as essential oils, if you want to freshen the air in your home. Air purifiers are a good choice if you want to work on the air quality in your house.
By implementing these simple steps, you can create a healthier and safer environment for yourself, your family, and your furry friends, minimizing the risks associated with second- and third-hand smoke and vaping aerosols. Remember, small actions can make a significant difference in safeguarding our well-being and they all add up. Let's make conscious choices to protect the ones we care about!
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST***