Study: E-cig vapor evaporates ‘within seconds;’ cigarette smoke takes up to 45 minutes

New research published in the prestigious journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research (NRT) indicates that the second-hand vapor from e-cigs consists of tiny particles which evaporate within seconds.  Conversely, the smoke from combustible cigarettes tends to linger in the air for approximately 30-45 minutes which exposes innocent bystanders and particularly young children to a wide range of potential adverse health issues.  That’s a significant difference of thousands of percentage points.

Furthermore, the increased density of individual particles of combustible tobacco smoke makes them uniquely capable of remaining trapped inside furniture upholstery, carpeting, drapes, and other home textiles for several years.  The research co-authored by Dr. Dainius Martuzevicius of the Department of Environmental Technology, Kaunas University of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania, further indicates that the rapid evaporation of e-cig vapor even takes place in enclosed, non-ventilated spaces. 

Overview of the vaping study

The vaping study is entitled, Characterisation of the Spatial and Temporal Dispersion Differences between Exhaled e-cigarette mist and Cigarette Smoke (NTR).  The basis of the research involves the monitoring and evaluation of multiple smokers as they were asked to both smoke and vape inside a carefully controlled “room-simulating chamber.” 

Each participant was asked to vape using commercially available vaping devices and combustible cigarettes while the scientists documented various effects on the chamber’s air quality.  Particle concentrations for both the smoking and vaping scenarios remained consistent and equalized while a mannequin modified with sensor devices captured the related data. 

Throughout the experiment, the mannequin – representing an innocent bystander - was relocated to various areas of the room and differing distances from the participating smoker or vaper.  The researchers also tested different room ventilation scenarios while measuring aerosol particle concentrations and particle distribution patterns.

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Even the room temperature and the materials of which the chamber was constructed were precisely selected to most closely mimic those of a real-world situation.    Room temperature remained a consistent 19-23 degrees Celsius, and the relative humidity levels were regulated to between 30-38 percent.  The mannequin bystander was even heated to the normal body temperature of a healthy human in the range of 31-34 degree Celsius. 

What the Martuzevicius team discovered is that the e-cig vapor particles evaporated almost instantly and regardless of proper room ventilation systems.  Conversely, the amount of time required for the combustible tobacco smoke to dissipate ranges from 30-45 seconds, and even then, much of the second-hand smoke became trapped inside the chamber furnishings. 

“For both product categories, the particle concentrations registered following each puff were in the same order of magnitude. However, for e-cigarettes the particle concentration returned rapidly to background values within seconds; for conventional cigarettes it increased with successive puffs, returning to background levels after 30–45 minutes. Unlike for the e-cigarette devices tested, such temporal variation was dependent on the room ventilation rate. Particle size measurements showed that exhaled e-cigarette particles were smaller than those emitted during smoking conventional cigarettes and evaporated almost immediately after exhalation, thus affecting the removal of particles through evaporation rather than displacement by ventilation.”

The scientists also determined that while exhaled e-cig vapor particles evaporate within seconds and regardless of the room’s ventilation capabilities, combustible cigarette smoke dissipation rates rely heavily on high-quality, industrial-level HVAC systems.  Without them, a significant portion of the cigarette smoke can theoretically linger inside the room forever, never mind the included indoor textiles and furnishings.  For vaping haters who falsely claim that second-hand smoke is just as hazardous to one’s health as second-hand smoke, this study debunks these misconceptions once and for all.

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(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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