The dangers of secondhand smoke have been studied for decades, but we know far less about the effects of electronic cigarettes, which vaporize a fluid mixture instead of burning tobacco. So researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University decided to test the vapor; the team measured fine particulate matter concentrations before, during, and after a two-day e-cigarette event attended by 56-89 active smokers.
During the event, median fine particulate matter reached nearly 41,000 times its smoke-free level, with concentrations ranging from 312 micrograms per cubic meter to 819 micrograms per cubic meter (to level set: 56 smokers in an airport bar produce about 553 micrograms per cubic meter, on average). In fact, peak concentrations at the e-cigarette event topped those recorded at hookah bars in Oregon in 2012.
E-cigarettes are often perceived as a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but we now know that their vapors do affect healthy air quality and could therefore be just as damaging to health. Independent research has shown that fine particulate matter, like that in secondhand smoke, can contribute to asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and lung cancer.
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