The danger to teenagers' lungs from e-cigarettes isn't only occurring in those who vape: A new report finds many young bystanders are breathing in "secondhand" fumes.
The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey, and found that about one-third of middle and high school students were exposed to vaping aerosols in 2018.
That's an increase of about 30 percent above the prevalence between 2015 and 2017, when about one in every four kids breathed in secondhand vaping fumes.
The trend is "concerning," because a number of possibly hazardous chemicals are released by e-cigarettes, said study corresponding author Andy Tan. Those chemicals include nicotine, heavy metals, aldehydes, glycerin and flavoring substances, he explained.
"The majority of studies have concluded that passive exposure may pose a health risk to bystanders, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and teens," said Tan. He's an investigator at the Center for Community-Based Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston.
The researchers noted that the rate at which young Americans are breathing in others' vaping fumes is rising despite the fact that 16 states and more than 800 municipalities have recently introduced laws to restrict e-cigarette use in many locations, including schools.
Much of the secondhand exposure is from living with or being around people who use e-cigarettes, Tan's team said. The report was published online Aug. 28 in JAMA Network Open.
Two experts unconnected to the study agreed there's real cause for concern for teens' health.
"The dangers of secondhand cigarette smoke have been well described in recent years, so it comes as no surprise that secondhand 'smoke' from vaping may also cause damage," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a lung specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
He pointed out that for some young bystanders, "asthmatic reactions are common, and with the rising trend of vaping and e-cigarette use, this has become a public health hazard."
Patricia Folan directs the Center for Tobacco Control at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She said that "the high concentration of ultra-fine particles in the aerosol can aggravate respiratory symptoms and cause constriction of blood vessels. Due to the chemical composition of the aerosol from some e-cigarette devices, those exposed experience eye, throat and airway irritation. Research has also indicated that exposure to the aerosol from flavored e-cigarettes may cause damage and disease to the lungs."
The study also found that the threat of secondhand smoke from traditional tobacco cigarettes hasn't gone away either. About half the students in the survey reported exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, which is much more dangerous than e-cigarette aerosols, Tan said.
"So we need to make sure that reducing exposure to secondhand smoke is still high on the agenda, along with policies to protect young people from all forms of secondhand exposures," Tan said in a Dana-Farber news release.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.
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