E-cigarettes: secondhand smoke also a health hazard?

E-cigarettes: secondhand smoke also a health hazard?

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Passive smoking: how dangerous can e-cigarettes become?

It has long been known that secondhand smoke is a health hazard. It has been linked to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and an increased risk of sudden infant death, among other things. But can passive smoking from e-cigarettes also be dangerous?

"Passive smoking is the involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke from the ambient air," explains the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). Like “active” smoking, it poses a health hazard and “increases the risk of lung cancer, and very likely also breast cancer in young women, and cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. It also puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of stroke by an estimated 20 to 30 percent. In addition, the susceptibility to infections is increasing, ”writes the DKFZ. And it can cause or worsen respiratory diseases. But what about the health risk from passive smoking of e-cigarettes? A current article by the renowned Mayo Clinic (USA) deals with this question.

Dangerous ingredients

When people smoke tobacco products, countless chemicals are released into the air. It is these chemicals, not the addictive nicotine, that pose a hazard, the Mayo Clinic, the US nonprofit that operates the world famous Mayo Clinics, explains on its website. "The dangerous ingredients are the other 6,000 things that are contained in tobacco smoke, and they arise because tobacco is burned," explains Dr. Taylor Hays, director of the Nicotine Addiction Center at the Mayo Clinic.

But does “vaping” have similar effects to tobacco smoke? According to Dr. J. Taylor Hays has so far no data on passive smoking from e-cigarettes, which is actually an aerosol that is inhaled when vaping. “These small particles that inhale the end of steam are also released into the atmosphere. If they irritate the lungs - and we know that this is the case with people who are vaping - then there is probably also irritant in passive vaping. "

With flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, and grapes, e-cigarettes smell a lot better than a burning tobacco product, but that doesn't mean they're harmless. It has not yet been clarified whether passive smoking of e-cigarettes "is clearly dangerous, but it is probably that," Dr. Hays.

More asthma attacks from passive smoking of e-cigarettes

This is also indicated by scientific studies. A study in Florida found that passive smoke from e-cigarettes leads to more asthma attacks, the lung information service at the Helmholtz Zentrum München reports.

For the study published in the journal "Chest", data from around 70,000 schoolchildren between the ages of 11 and 17 years were evaluated, of whom 11,830 had bronchial asthma. As the lung information service explains, around a third of them were exposed to secondhand smoke from electronic nicotine products.

When asked if they had had an asthma attack in the past twelve months, about one in five replied "yes". In addition, a look at the number of asthma attacks showed that acute worsening of asthma was more common among children and adolescents who were exposed to secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes and similar devices than in the comparison group.

However, the study authors pointed out that further investigations are necessary to confirm this connection and also to better understand the long-term consequences. Until then, doctors should inform young asthma sufferers about the potential risks of electronic nicotine products. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Mayo Clinic: Secondhand electronic cigarette smoke, (access: 22.10.2019), Mayo Clinic
  • German Cancer Research Center: Passive Smoking and Health Consequences, (accessed: October 22, 2019), German Cancer Research Center
  • Lung information service at the Helmholtz Zentrum München: More asthma attacks from secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes, (accessed: October 22, 2019), lung information service
  • Chest: Secondhand Exposure to Aerosols From Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Asthma Exacerbations Among Youth With Asthma, (accessed: October 22, 2019), Chest

Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: Secondhand electronic cigarette smoke (June 2022).