Secondhand Vape and You


With vaping and e-cigarettes becoming as common as they are in the modern world, it is entirely likely that most people will be exposed to secondhand e-cigarette smoke. This could come from passing through someone’s vape “cloud” or by living in the same house as someone who vapes – just like traditional cigarette secondhand smoke.

The primary difference between secondhand smoke from a combustible cigarette and secondhand vape from an e-cigarette (like those made by Smok, Suorin, or other manufacturers) is the method of release. In the case of a traditional tobacco product (think cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and the like), the secondhand smoke is being released from the minute combustion starts until the fire is put out. In an e-cigarette, the chemicals are released when the user exhales. There is no continual combustion releasing more, so the secondhand vape is based solely on the usage.

But that raises a new question: is secondhand vape bad for you? Is it better than cigarette smoke? Or is it just as bad?

The short answer to all these questions is going to reflect the answer to a lot of the other questions surrounding e-cigarettes: we do not know. There hasn’t been enough research done to say anything definitively.

Is Vape Smoke Harmless?

However, this does not mean that secondhand vape is entirely harmless as many believe. The cloud is not just water vapor, as many e-cigarette users claim to their smoking friends who make fun of the cloud they produce. There are byproducts of the chemicals and the process of converting them to vapor in the cloud, which means that there are chemicals in this. This was confirmed by a study published in April 2019, which found traces of copper and propylene glycol in e-cigarette smoke.

Many notable physicians have said that it would be almost impossible for vape smoke to be harmless. Someone with irritable lungs or a chronic airway condition (think emphysema) will definitely be affected by it because it is not just regular air they are breathing in. The link to someone with healthy lungs and airway is much less clear, but it would be fairly safe to assume that e-cigarette smoke is going to be worse for you than just breathing in air.

However, this does not necessarily mean it is harmful.

The real problem with answering this question is this: most of the research being done surrounding e-cigarettes focuses on the user themselves, rather than on the byproducts released on the exhale. There are only a small handful of studies that look into what happens to the people around them and, much like many of the studies surrounding the e-cigarette industry, the methods of testing do not necessarily reflect how actual users vape. Because of this, the results are either exaggerated due to going overboard with usage during experiments, or otherwise not accurate due to some other factor.

Currently, there are no links between secondhand vape smoke and any health risks. It is important to note, however, that this was also the case for cigarettes for a long time. The health risks associated with secondhand smoke did not make their way to the public eye for many years after they became part of regular American culture. This information did not come to light until long-term observations were able to be made and, with e-cigarettes still being in their infancy, it is almost impossible to know for sure.

Is Secondhand Vape Better Than Secondhand Smoke?

This is the big question most users are asking: is secondhand vape better than secondhand smoke? While the evidence is not complete yet, most researchers and doctors will agree that the answer is yes. Like directly using e-cigarettes instead of traditional tobacco products, most of the evidence points to e-cigarettes being better than the tobacco products they were designed to replace. (Source:

A report in 2018 by the National Academies of Science and Medicine found that particulate and toxin exposure is significantly lower for both users and bystanders when an e-cigarette was used instead of a combustible cigarette.

It seems the people most affected by secondhand e-cigarette vapors are those who already have compromised pulmonary systems, as discussed above. It also looks like it may affect people who are exposed to it repeatedly over a long period of time worse than the average individual.

However, it is also unknown exactly what toxins and particulates each and every c-cigarette is putting out. With many different companies creating many different flavors, each with their own individual recipe for those flavors, it may be nearly impossible to ever gather this information. For instance, even if two companies create a similar flavor liquid for an e-cigarette, there may be substantial differences in their flavoring ingredients that might create different particulates that the user releases into the air when they exhale.

Final Thoughts

Most users know this, but it is important to remember that using an e-cigarette is always going to be worse than not smoking at all. In the same line, breathing regular air is always going to be better than breathing in e-cigarette smoke. E-cigarettes started as a smoking cessation aid, so it only makes sense that they fit into a nice middle ground to help traditional smokers get into a place where they no longer feel the need to smoke at all.

E-cigarette smoke is not just water vapor, as it also contains particulate matter that is inhaled by bystanders. This will be especially noticeable for individuals who already have compromised airways and lungs. This does not mean that it is just as harmful as secondhand smoke. It has been proven that there is less toxic matter in secondhand vape than there is in the secondhand smoke from a cigarette.

The e-cigarette industry is currently plagued with faulty studies, and it is my personal belief that this occurs because it has not been around long enough for the researchers to know how to accurately do the studies. I do not think it is some big conspiracy designed to kill the e-cigarette industry while it is still young, and I do not believe that it is being done by “Big Tobacco” to try to increase their profits. Over the coming years, I am sure that these trials and experiments will be refined, fine-tuned, and morphed so the general public can get the accurate information they need to be able to make a well-informed decision regarding whether an e-cigarette is right for them.

But rest assured: based on what we know now, secondhand vape is not going to kill you in the same way secondhand smoke will.




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