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One in three teens are exposed to secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes

One in three teens are exposed to secondhand e-cigarette vapor, study finds

  • Secondhand aerosol exposure jumped from one in four teens between 2015 and 2017 to one in three in 2018
  • There was a significant increase from 2017 to 2018, rising from 25.6% to 33.2%
  • The rise occurred despite 16 states and 800 municipalities introducing laws to limit e-cigarette use in the last few years
  • E-cigs have been linked to increased risk of lung diseases and oral cancer
  • Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggest implementing clean air laws and interventions to reduce youth vaping

More teenagers than ever before are being exposed to secondhand aerosols from electronic cigarettes, a new study warns. 

Researchers found that one-third of middle- and high-school students said they were exposed to vaping aerosols in 2018.

This is a 30 percent increase from the teens who reported exposure between 2015 and 2017. 

E-cigarettes have been linked to an increased risk of lung diseases, and potentially certain cancers, including oral cancer.

The team, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, says clean air laws and interventions to reduce youth vaping are urgently needed to reverse the trend.

A new study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has found that secondhand aerosol exposure from e-cigarettes among teens jumped from 25.6% in 2017 to 33.2% in 2018 (file image)

E-cigarettes are devices, often resembling cigarettes, cigars or pipes, designed to deliver nicotine or related substances to users in the form of a vapor.

They contain a solution that’s heated up and converted to an aerosol, which is then inhaled.  

E-cigarettes are the most used tobacco product among US teens.

The 2016 Surgeon General’s report found a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use among young people from 2011 to 2015.  

‘There’s been a rising trend of vaping among young people in the US including JUUL and pod-based e-cigarettes,’ Dr Andy Tan, an investigator at the Center for Community Based Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told 

‘We were concerned that some who were not using were being exposed to secondhand aerosols.’

Proponents have touted e-cigarettes as healthier, safer alternatives to traditional tobacco products.

But health experts say many of the toxic substances in the product make them harmful.

This includes ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorings that have been linked to a serious lung disease and an increased risk of oral cancer.

‘Contrarily to claims in marketing and advertising, aerosols are not just water vapor, they contain harmful substances,’ said Dr Tan. 

For the study, published in JAMA Network Open, the team analyzed data from the National Youth Tobacco survey from 2015 to 2018, which is carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Participants were asked how often they breathed in smoke from someone using tobacco products or e-cigarettes in public places in the last 30 days. 

Secondhand aerosol exposure increased from around one in four teens between 2015 and 2017 to one in three in 2018.

The most significant increase occurred from 2017 to 2018, rising from 25.6 percent of middle- and high-schoolers to 33.2 percent. 

This is despite 16 states and more than 800 municipalities that enacted or introduced laws to limit e-cigarette use in the last few years. 

Additionally, two months ago, San Francisco became the first major US city to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

Between 2015 and 2018, half of the teens in the survey said they were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Although this is a ‘significant downward trend’ from previous years, Dr Tan says secondhand smoke is much more harmful than e-cigarette emissions.

‘This is very concerning,’ said Dr Tan. ‘Trends in increasing secondhand aerosols are concerning [too], but we need to keep eye on making sure secondhand smoke is being reduced.’ 

The team recommends a number of proposals including clean air laws, increasing education of secondhand aerosols among parents, and interventions to reduce youth vaping.  


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