Is vaping around young children, kids & babies safe?

E-cigarettes or vaping devices are electronic products that heat a liquid to produce a vapour/smoke and were created as nicotine delivery systems just like cigarettes. They come in many shapes and sizes from looking like cigarettes, to USB flash drives (JUUL), to large tank system devices.

Most of the vaping liquids contain nicotine as well as many other harmful chemicals. Vapour is exhaled by e-cigarette users as part of their vaping. The vaping liquid contains many harmful chemicals and studies show using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose nonusers to nicotine1.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance which can harm adolescent and young adult brain development2.

Aside from nicotine the vapour when exhaled contains:

  • Ultrafine particles – these can be inhaled deep into the lungs and may exacerbate conditions such as asthma and emphysema and could lead to a heart attack3, 4
  • Volatile Organic Compounds – these are created as a by product of heating the vapour and can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea, and can damage the liver, kidney and nervous system12
  • Cancer causing toxins – These include Acetaldehyde (MS), Benzene (SS), Cadmium (MS), Formaldehyde (MS,SS), Isoprene (SS), Lead (MS), Nickel (MS), nicotine (MS, SS), N- Nitrosonornicotine (MS, SS), Toluene (MS, SS)5, 6
  • Propylene Glycol (PG) – Research has shown that heating propylene glycol changes its chemical composition, producing small amounts of propylene oxide, a known cancerous toxin7
  • Heavy metals – these are known to cause respiratory distress and disease and include nickel, tin and lead8

In addition, the single biggest factor in stopping teens from vaping or smoking appears to be to raise children in a smoke & vape free home. If the parents smoke or vape it normalises the behaviour in children who particularly when they are young look up to parents as their role models. This increases the likelihood that the child will go on to vape and smoke9. Read more about Teen Vaping

It is therefore not safe to vape in a confined space with children just as it isn’t with smoking cigarettes (although there is no doubt that the former is by far the lesser of two evils). It is not possible to protect them from occasional vaping such as in the street but frequent vaping in the home or car can be avoided.

How vaping (using E-cigarettes) around babies and kids affects them

Second-hand vaping or passive vaping is where children breathe in the vape that has been exhaled by the vaper. Third-hand vaping is where the exhaled vape settles on surfaces and is then touched by children. Studies have found that the vape on such surfaces includes nicotine17.

It is now well established that second-hand / passive smoking from cigarettes is bad for your health but what is the situation for second-hand or third-hand vaping? When people vape the e-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine as well as many other chemicals. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs but when they exhale the aerosol is spread over a wide distance.

Before talking in more detail about second or third hand vaping it is worth saying that the single biggest factor in stopping teens from vaping or smoking appears to be to raise children in a smoke & vape free home. If the parents smoke or vape it normalises the behaviour in children. This increases the likelihood that the child will go on to vape and smoke9.

Children and babies are the group who are most at risk from vape aerosols because of their lower body weight and developing respiratory systems but there is a risk to everyone.

Side effects of second or third hand vaping on babies and kids

  • Poison – Nicotine vaping liquid can be poisonous within a few minutes of contact to an adult’s skin. To a child it can be deadly. In 2014 a 1 year-old child died from liquid nicotine poisoning in US11
  • Asthma & emphysema – these can be exacerbated by the ultrafine particles exhaled by vapers3, 4
  • Eye, nose and throat irritation – Volatile Organic Compounds created by heating the vaping liquid and exhaled can led to this12
  • Headaches and nausea – Volatile Organic Compounds created by heating the vaping liquid are exhaled and can lead to this12
  • Liver, kidney and nervous system – Volatile Organic Compounds created by heating the vaping liquid are exhaled and can lead to this12
  • Cancer causing toxins – These include Acetaldehyde (MS), Benzene (SS), Cadmium (MS), Formaldehyde (MS,SS), Isoprene (SS), Lead (MS), Nickel (MS), Nicotine (MS, SS), N- Nitrosonornicotine (MS, SS), Toluene (MS, SS) which are then exhaled5, 6
  • Cancer causing toxin – Research has shown that heating propylene glycol changes its chemical composition, producing small amounts of propylene oxide, a known cancerous toxin which is then exhaled7
  • Brain damage – the brain doesn’t stop developing until around 25 years old and nicotine can damage developing brains15
  • Respiratory distress and disease – due to heavy metals including nickel, tin and lead which are exhaled8
  • Lung damage13, 14Read more about how vaping can damage the lungs

Research is ongoing to determine the full extent of side effects.

This news article from ABC in the US on the effects of second-hand fumes from vaping on young lungs may also be of interest:

Read Vaping Statistics and Facts

How to protect your children, kids & babies from second-hand or third-hand vaping

Second-hand vaping or passive vaping is where children breathe in the vape that has been exhaled by the vaper. Third-hand vaping is where the exhaled vape settles on surfaces and is then touched by children. Studies have found that the vape on such surfaces includes nicotine17.

Secondhand and Thirdhand vaping is an issue that causes health issues particularly to young people and babies. There are a number of steps that can be taken to protect children:

  • Quit Vaping – The best way to protect your children is to stop vaping. It may surprise you that it is easier than you think.
  • Vape outside – Vaping indoors keeps the vape aerosol enclosed leading to a higher likelihood of second-hand and thirdhand vaping.
  • Avoid nicotine juices – Nicotine is very harmful to the vaper and the development of children’s lungs and brains13, 14, 15.
  • Avoid flavoured juices – These contain more chemicals to give the flavour and colour which when heated can create cancer causing toxins among other things [7]
  • Lower power and temperature device – The higher the power and temperature the increased amount of harmful chemicals are created as well as increasing the risk that heavy metals from the coils will then go into the exhaled vape5, 6.
  • Occasional exposure – This is unavoidable such as when the children are walking in town but the frequent exposure from the home and car can be avoided

Are kids attracted to vaping and does that necessarily lead to them smoking?

Early on in the development of the e-cigarette market, manufacturers assured the tobacco control community (people like Action on Smoking and Health) and other interested parties that the target market for e-cigarettes was existing smokers and that the marketing, positioning, and messaging for the e-cigarette would be as a quit smoking aid.

showing chlidren the easyway to stop smoking and vaping

That isn’t quite how it has turned out. By 2014 there were still no controls over who could sell e-cigarettes, who could buy them, what was in them, and how they might be advertised. In fact, 2014 saw the first UK TV advert showing smoker-like behaviour – an attractive, alluring model exhaling smoke-like vapour – in decades. The brands using these tactics are clearly targeting everyone, not just smokers. Advertising firms can once again use humour, sex and hugely aspirational imagery to sell nicotine addiction.

Of course these ads are aimed primarily at young people, as are the packaging, flavours and pack designs. E-cigarettes have been marketed aggressively to children. The statistics show that increasing numbers of children are being drawn into using them as well, with more and more studies confirming that more kids are using e-cigarettes at a younger age than would use normal cigarettes, and that more of those kids will eventually smoke real cigarettes. The nicotine industry of course loves this. Get the addicts younger and you maximize the lifetime income per user. One can only assume that the treasury departments of government feel likewise. The taxation of addiction is extremely lucrative.

A certain number of kids have always have tried out cigarettes, but the way e-cigarettes are creeping into everyday life is different. It’s creating a new gateway into smoking and nicotine addiction.

Because zero nicotine capsules or liquid can be purchased, youngsters really can say that the e-cigarette they are using is not addictive. Who’s to know different? Especially when they come in flavours such as bubble-gum, watermelon, cotton candy, popcorn, and cherry cheesecake. Who do you think those flavours are targeting? Your kids!

Kids all over the country are trying out e-cigarettes and think nothing of passing them around the class claiming that “They’re not addictive” and “They taste nice”. Of course before too long – the zero nicotine capsules are discarded in favour of the ones that contain nicotine.

As if getting youngsters as young as 12 addicted to nicotine isn’t bad enough, we’ve warned for years that e-cigarettes will prove to be a gateway into “smoking for real” for most of those youngsters. The latest studies confirm our worst fears.

You can imagine how the kids get sucked in. Firstly, the peer pressure to move on to “the real thing” exists already, but more significantly for the simple reason that no e-cigarette will ever deliver nicotine as efficiently as a cigarette. All addicts eventually end up looking for ways to get more of their drug into their bloodstream faster, so it is with nicotine. That’s where cigarettes come in. Sadly, another generation of kids are sliding into the nicotine pit.

Final Thoughts

Second-hand and third-hand vaping may appear to be nothing more than sweet smells but the reality is different. Using electronic cigarettes around children risks exposing them to damaging chemicals which can harm them and affect their development as well as increasing the likelihood that they will vape as they get older. It is therefore not safe to vape in a confined space with children just as it isn’t with smoking cigarettes (although there is no doubt that the former is by far the lesser of two evils). You may be interested in these articles:

Teen Vaping & How to Help Teens to Quit

Vaping While Pregnant – What are the risks?

Vaping Statistics and Facts

Can Vaping Damage the Lungs?

References:

  1. Secondhand Exposure to Vapors From Electronic Cigarettes J Czogala, M Goniewicz, B Fidelus, W Zielinksha-Danch, M Travers, A Sobczak Nicotine Tob Res. 2014 Jun; 16(6): 655–662 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4565991/
  2. US Department of Health and Human Services. E-cigarette use among youth and young adults: a report of the Surgeon General pdf icon[PDF–8.47 MB]. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2016.
  3. Fuoco, F.C.; Buonanno, G.; Stabile, L.; Vigo, P., “Influential parameters on particle concentration and size distribution in the mainstream of e-cigarettes,” Environmental Pollution 184: 523-529, January 2014.
  4. Grana, R; Benowitz, N; Glantz, S. “Background Paper on E-cigarettes,” Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco and WHO Collaborating Center on Tobacco Control. December 2013.
  5. Goniewicz, M.L.; Knysak, J.; Gawron, M.; Kosmider, L.; Sobczak, A.; Kurek, J.; Prokopowicz, A.; Jablonska-Czapla, M.; Rosik-Dulewska, C.; Havel, C.; Jacob, P.; Benowitz, N., “Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapour from electronic cigarettes,” Tobacco Control [Epub ahead of print], March 6, 2013.
  6. Williams, M.; Villarreal, A.; Bozhilov, K.; Lin, S.; Talbot, P., “Metal and silicate particles including nanoparticles are present in electronic cigarette cartomizer fluid and aerosol,” PLoS ONE 8(3): e57987, March 20, 2013.
  7. Henderson, TR; Clark, CR; Marshall, TC; Hanson, RL; & Hobbs, CH. “Heat degradation studies of solar heat transfer fluids,” Solar Energy, 27, 121-128. 1981.
  8. Williams, M.; Villarreal, A.; Bozhilov, K.; Lin, S.; Talbot, P., “Metal and silicate particles including nanoparticles are present in electronic cigarette cartomizer fluid and aerosol,” PLoS ONE 8(3): e57987, March 20, 2013.
  9. Parental Awareness of Youth Tobacco Use and the Role of Household Tobacco Rules in Use Prevention Tsu-Shuan Wu and Benjamin W. Chaffee Pediatrics October 2020, e20194034; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-4034 
  10. Parental Smoking and E-cigarette Use in Homes and Cars J Drehmer, E Nabi, B Walters April 2019 PEDIATRICS 143(4):e20183249 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331651112_Parental_Smoking_and_E-cigarette_Use_in_Homes_and_Cars
  11. First Child’s Death From Liquid Nicotine Reported as ‘Vaping’ Gains Popularity ABC https://abcnews.go.com/Health/childs-death-liquid-nicotine-reported-vaping-gains-popularity/story?id=27563788
  12. American Cancer society https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/e-cigarettes.html
  13. Lerner, C.A.; Rutagarama, P.; Ahmad, T.; Sundar, I.K.; Elder, A.; Rahman, I., “Electronic cigarette aerosols and copper nanoparticles induce mitochondrial stress and promote DNA fragmentation in lung fibroblasts,” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 477(4): 620-625, September 2, 2016.
  14. Ghosh, A., Coakley, R. C., Mascenik, T., Rowell, T. R., Davis, E. S., Rogers, K., … Tarran, R. (2018). Chronic e-cigarette exposure alters the human bronchial epithelial proteome. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 198(1), 67-76. DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201710-2033OC
  15. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention E-cigarettes and pregnancy https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/substance-abuse/e-cigarettes-pregnancy.htm
  16. Mickle, Tripp (22 April 2015). “Take a Deep Breath if You Want to Try Competitive Vaping”The Wall Street Journal.
  17. Electronic Cigarettes Are a Source of Thirdhand Exposure to Nicotine M. Goniewicz, L. Lee Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Feb; 17(2): 256–258. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4837997/
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