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Study: E-cig vapor takes just seconds to dissipate; cigarette smoke takes 45 minutes

Several surveys conducted by public health organizations are beginning to indicate that many Americans wrongly believe that vaping is just as potentially lethal as smoking.  Misinformation spreading online by public health organizations as well as anti-tobacco lobbyists is a significant contributor to this mass confusion.  Since both electronic cigarettes and combustible tobacco products produce a white, gaseous plume that appears almost identical to the typical, non-smoker, it’s somewhat easy to understand why so many Americans wrongly believe that both products are equally as dangerous.

In early 2018, a study entitled Comparing the cancer potencies of emissions from vapourised nicotine products including e-cigarettes with those of tobacco smoke (BMJ Tobacco Control) indicated that e-cig vapor is 99 percent less toxic than the smoke from conventional cigarettes.  Yet, a large percentage of the general population remains unconvinced of vaping’s lifesaving health benefits for smokers trying to quit.

Vaping science: The convergence of hi-tech and traditional research techniques

Building upon the 2018 research, a group of scientists from the Department of Environmental Technology, Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania, set out to determine the potential variances in dissipation timeframes between e-cig vapor and combustible tobacco smoke.   By constructing a specially designed room-simulating chamber with a perfectly controlled ventilation system, the researchers led by Dr. Dainius Martuzevicius discovered some major differences.

The protocols for the vaping study were very detailed and highly complex so as to avoid any possible issues of cross contamination or perceptions of scientific manipulation.  Three specially chosen volunteers would blow cigarette smoke or e-cig vapor into the room-simulating chamber while a mannequin augmented with high-tech sensors was placed inside the room to represent a typical, non-smoking bystander. 

The sensors would monitor such statistical data as the number of vapor or smoke particles entering the chamber, the number of particles infiltrating the respiratory sensors of the mannequin, the particle sizes, and the length of time required for the particles to fully evaporate.   The scientists employed several ventilation, humidity, and room temperature scenarios, and the human participants were given only over-the-counter vaping and combustible tobacco products for use in the experiment. 

Related Article:  Four public health experts suggest FDA lacks proof of so-called vaping ‘epidemic’

Room temperatures typically ranged between 19-23 degrees Celsius, and the humidity levels were carefully regulated to between 30-38 percent.  Meanwhile, the mannequin itself was heated to a consistent 31-34 degree Celsius, representing the normal, healthy, body temperature of a typical human being.  The details of the study are documented in the publication, Characterisation of the Spatial and Temporal Dispersion Differences between Exhaled e-cigarette mist and Cigarette Smoke (Nicotine and Tobacco Research).

What the Martuzevicius team discovered is that the smoke produced from combustible cigarettes remains inside the room-simulating chamber for between 30 to 45 minutes, depending on humidity, room temperature, and room ventilation variations.  Conversely, e-cig vapor produced under the same corresponding environmental conditions fully evaporated within only a few seconds.

“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 evaporation timeframes for tobacco smoke rely most heavily on the room’s ventilation capabilities.  Rooms with poor or perhaps outdated ventilation systems, for example, would translate to longer smoke dissipation rates automatically.  For vaping, however, ventilation capabilities were far less of a significant factor. 

Related Article:   Renowned epidemiologist debunks FDA claims of teen vaping ‘epidemic’

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

(Chart courtesy of Oxford Academic Nicotine and Tobacco Research)

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