Second-Hand E-Cigarette Vapor Exposure in a Quarter of U.S. Teens

By Emily Cox
E-Cigarette Vapor
Photo by Peter Remmers

A new study indicates potentially harmful second-hand e-cigarette vapors affect roughly one in four youths in the country.

Researchers published their findings this month in the Jama Pediatrics medical journal.  According to new Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, the number of teens using e-cigarettes has increased significantly since the tobacco products were introduced to the market in 2007. Consequently, an alarming amount of teens are exposed to these devices’ second-hand vapors.

The study indicates e-cigarettes release aerosol. Some of this is also exhaled into the air where nonusers can inhale or ingest it. It can also make skin contact. Researchers warn that the vapor may contain harmful substances like heavy metals, nicotine, and benzene vapors. These are all carcinogens.

The 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed an almost 25 percent rate of exposure for middle and high school students to e-cigarette vapors in an indoor or outdoor location at least once in a 30-day time period. This equates roughly 6.5 million students.

E-cigarette vapor exposure rates were highest among whites and females. Researchers found these rates to be 22 percent for males and 27 percent for females. They also found rates of exposure to be 15 percent for blacks, 25 percent for Hispanics, 27 percent for whites, and 22 percent among other races.

Thanks to manufacturers aggressively marketing appealing sweet flavors to target teens and young adults, the country’s youth most commonly uses E-cigarettes among tobacco products.

E-Cigarette Risks

A 2014 Japanese study indicated that E-cigarettes contain up to 10 times the level of cancer-causing agents as regular tobacco. Another recent study highlighted the e-cigarette vapor risk to teen lungs. Yet another study in 2016 linked e-cigarettes to an increased risk of oral cancer. Furthermore, the Surgeon General issued a warning in late 2016 that e-cigarettes pose a serious health risk to the country’s youth.

Researchers are urging policy-makers to modify tobacco-free policies to include e-cigarettes. They indicate that this is crucial to protecting America’s youth from a preventable health risk.

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