Passive Vaping

Posted 9th October 2014 by Dave Cross
A team has carried out an investigation looking at nicotine in the air and the presence of cotinine in urine and saliva. This was done to compare passive vaping with passive smoking and provide evidence in a poorly researched area.

What is the name of the research?

Cigarettes vs. e-cigarettes: Passive exposure at home measured by means of airborne marker and biomarkers

Who carried it out?

Montse Ballbèa, Jose M. Martínez-Sáncheza, Xisca Suredaa, Marcela Fua, Raúl Pérez-Ortuñog, José A. Pascualg, Esteve Saltói, Esteve Fernández

Where was it done?

Bellvitge University Hospital, Spain

Have they carried out any similar work?

In 2009, they carried out a study looking at the levels of nicotine in smokers and discovered that people smoking over 20 a day only had a slightly increased level in their body compared to those who smoke one pack a day.

Why was it performed?

Due to the lack of evidence about passive exposure to the vapour exhaled from electronic cigarettes under real conditions, the study aimed to characterise this passive nicotine exposure and compare it to traditional cigarette smoke within the home among non-smokers.


Who was involved?

  • 54 non-smoking volunteers
  • Half living with smokers
  • Five living with users of electronic cigarettes
  • Twenty-four from homes with neither cigarette nor e-Cig users

How was it carried out?

  • Nicotine concentration was measured in the air of the homes
  • Cotinine concentration was measured in urine and saliva.

What were the results?

What did the team conclude?

Our results show that non-smokers passively exposed to e-cigarettes absorb nicotine.”

That sounds bad then, is that bad?

Please refer to the comments made by Doctor Farsalinos…

What does he say?

Farsalinos explains that it is unsurprising to find nicotine in the air because of the volume of vape produced and that less nicotine is absorbed when vaping (compared to smoking).

He poses two questions:

  • Does it mean that passive vaping may lead to nicotine dependence?
  • Does it mean that nicotine is absorbed to such levels that it may cause harm to bystanders?

His answer to both questions is “No”.

How does he justify that?

The level of cotinine detected in the saliva of passive vapers is approximately 1200 times lower than active smokers.

But even at that level, what effect does it have on non-smokers/vapers?

“Such levels are not only harmless but have absolutely no biological effect, even according to the strictest regulatory definitions.”

What does Doctor Farsalinos conclude?

“Considering the possibility that allowing e-cigarette use in public places may motivate smokers to switch to e-cigarette use, there is no scientific basis for any bans on e-cigarette use in public places.”


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Top Photo credit: left-hand via photopin cc

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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