With the increasing prevalence of vaping in public places, there is growing discussion among public health organisations and the scientific community as to whether the aerosol exhaled by vapers has implications for the quality of air breathed by bystanders. This concept is often referred to as “passive vaping”.
What is “passive” vaping?
The term passive vaping refers to the impact the e-vapour exhaled by somebody using an e-cigarettes or vape device may have on other people in the immediate vicinity. In recent years, there has been conflicting information presented to the public regarding the potential risks to bystanders from exhaled e-vapour aerosols. There have been calls, including by some government bodies, to prohibit the use of vaping products in workplaces and enclosed public spaces.
The aerosol particles exhaled following the use of a vaping device do not have the same surface chemistry or physics as smoke particles exhaled when smoking tobacco. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of products of combustion and can linger in an enclosed area for up to 45 minutes. In contrast, exhaled e-vapour “particles” are liquid droplets primarily composed of propylene glycol, glycerol and water (the principal components of the e-liquid) which condense into a visible mist upon exhalation and then disappear within 5 to 15 seconds. As vape e-liquids and do not contain tobacco and do not use combustion there is no second-hand tobacco smoke.
The presence or size of the particles is of little importance if they are not toxic. For example, car exhausts and boiling kettles both produce airborne particles, but they are fundamentally different, as one contains many chemicals from combustion and the other produces steam.
Passive vaping and regulation
Regulators considering legislation on indoor vaping should weigh up the existing scientific evidence on e-vapour products and the possible effect of their regulation on vapers. Primarily, they should take into account the fact that forcing vapers to share a space with tobacco users could well undermine their attempts to quit smoking and expose them to second-hand tobacco smoke emissions which the public health community has concluded are harmful.
We believe it is unjustified to apply smoke-free legislation to vaping products, since they do not contain tobacco, do not generate side-stream emissions, and pose no known risk to bystanders. In 2015 the US Centers for Disease Control investigated a vape shop environment in California where both staff and customers vaped, to see if it conformed to occupational health standards and found it did. Their conclusion was unambiguous:
“We evaluated concerns about exposure to vaping-related chemicals in a vape shop. Exposure to flavouring chemicals, formaldehyde, nicotine, and propylene glycol were all below occupational exposure limits.”
Fontem Ventures believes vaping should be permitted in public places, but vapers should be courteous to those around them. It should be up to individual establishments and business owners to decide whether or not to permit the use of vaping products inside their premises.