We are all familiar with second-hand smoking. The chances are you’ve either been a victim, an offender or maybe even both. We’ve all heard about the dangers of inhaling cigarette smoke — but what about second-hand vapor?


What is second-hand vapor?


Second-hand vapor is different from second-hand smoke. Smoke is a product of burning. When you burn any substance, volatile gases, carbon monoxide and other potentially toxic substances are released into the air. Burning tobacco sets free over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are considered toxic and over fifty are carcinogenic. This makes smoking a very unhealthy habit and second-hand smoking quite a dangerous side-effect. In fact, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have even added an online pamphlet to their website specifically outlining the dangers of second-hand smoking.


Second-hand vapor is the result of a different process. It’s technically an aerosol exhaled by a vaper and is not a product of combustion. Thus, you are not inhaling second-hand smoke but rather clouds of flavorful steam. The vapor from vaping devices is the result of e-liquid being heated by a vaporizer and no carbon monoxide or tar is released in the process. Thus, it will not linger in the air, clothing or hair and does not have the sharp smell that cigarettes do.


 So what’s actually in second-hand vapor?


The most obvious difference between second-hand smoking and second-hand vapor is that with second-hand vapor there is no emission from the device itself — all of the second-hand vapor comes from the lungs and mouth of the one who is vaping. The way it goes is this: the vaper inhales from the device and produces clouds of vapor. When they exhale, there is less of the actual e-liquid substance in the vapor as most of it has been absorbed by their lungs and mouth. In short, even if you inhale a vaper’s cloud on purpose, you will be getting very little of the actual contents of the vape.


But what will you be inhaling?


As the main ingredient in most e-liquids is propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, you will be getting a little bit of that. Plus, if someone is smoking nicotine-containing e-liquids, there will be minimal amounts of nicotine in the air as well. Additionally, you may be getting small amounts of formaldehyde, acetone, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.


Is vapor harmful?


According to Public Health England and their extensive review of the issue, “there have been no

identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders.”


With that, it doesn’t mean that exposing yourself to second-hand vaping is particularly healthy. While no long-term health risks have been revealed, you may still experience certain symptoms when inhaling second-hand vapor — especially if you are not a vaper or smoker and have allergies.

Some of the possible side-effects may include throat inflammation, coughing and sneezing, aggravation of allergy symptoms, etc. Thus, if you experience any of these, it’s probably better to stay away from vaping clouds — especially indoors and in poor-ventilated areas.


Thus, the general recommendation to all prolific vapers is to vape outside, open windows or make sure there is an efficient air purification system in place and glycerin — the two glycols that together make the base of all e-liquids — what vapers exhale into the air doesn’t contain high levels of anything. According to Drexel University toxicology expert Igor Burstyn, while the contents of e-cig vapor inhaled by users “justifies surveillance,” there is so little contamination in exhaled vapor that there is unlikely to be any risk.

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