What's coming out of an e-cigarette (aerosol) may look different than secondhand smoke from cigarettes, but it's far from harmless. The Surgeon General warns e-cigarette emissions can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine and volatile organic compounds. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their developing lungs—and nicotine is always harmful to adolescent brain development.
But many Americans think e-cigarette aerosol is safe. According to a new CDC study, 40 percent of U.S. adults believe that children's exposure to secondhand aerosol from e-cigarettes causes only some or little harm. Five percent think it causes no harm. And this misperception may be risking the health of those who breathe this aerosol, especially children who may be exposed.
The Study of Perceptions
In the study Perceptions of Harm to Children Exposed to Secondhand Aerosol From Electronic Vapor Products, Styles Survey, 2015, authors assessed the perceptions of e-cigarette aerosol harmfulness. They found that current and former adult cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users were more likely to perceive that secondhand aerosol exposure poses no harm to children. Here are more of the study's results:
The study's conclusions support the need for public education of health risks from secondhand e-cigarette emissions and protections for non-users, particularly children, as well as laws protecting everyone from secondhand e-cigarette emissions.
Clean Air Should Be the Standard to Protect Health
What's good for your lungs? Clean, healthy air. According to the study, "clean air — free of both smoke and [e-cigarette] aerosol — remains the standard to protect health." The American Lung Association wholeheartedly agrees!
That's why we continue our work to help smokers quit tobacco and educate the public about the realities of tobacco use (including e-cigarettes), and the importance of smokefree spaces. In fact, now that more and more public spaces and workplaces are going smokefree, it's important to include e-cigarettes under smokefree laws, to protect everyone from breathing in secondhand e-cigarette emissions. The aerosol is a cocktail of chemicals that's not safe for anyone to inhale.
Currently, nine states, the District of Columbia and hundreds of communities have added e-cigarettes to their smokefree laws—prohibiting e-cigarette use in the same places where smoking is already not allowed. We're urging all states and communities to do the same.