Many people who do not allow others to smoke inside their homes are allowing others to vape. A new research study highlights the importance of restricting both smoking and vaping inside your home to reduce the risk of toxic thirdhand smoke exposure.
August 12, 2020
By: Lucia Alvarez-Malo Flores
Many of us are aware of the risks that come with allowing others to smoke inside our homes, but we may be less aware of the dangers of letting others vape inside. When tobacco products are smoked inside homes, substances including nicotine settle onto surfaces and form toxic thirdhand smoke. Similarly, when vaping happens inside, aerosol containing nicotine settles on surfaces and leaves behind a toxic residue much like tobacco products. Banning all use of electronic nicotine products, including e-cigarettes or “vapes”, inside the home prevents the build-up of toxic aerosol residue.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Dongmei Li from the University of Rochester Medical Center investigated indoor restrictions on smoking and vaping using data from more than 28,000 US adults. These adults were part of a larger study called the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, led by NIDA and FDA.
There were four different groups in this study: former smokers, current smokers, current vapers, and dual users who both smoked and vaped. The likelihood of restricting smoking or vaping inside homes varied among these groups. The researchers found that vaping is often allowed inside the home by many of the same people who do not allow smoking inside their homes. For instance, most dual users prohibit smoking in their homes yet 75% of the dual users allow vaping inside their home. “This is a troubling phenomenon”, says Jeremy Drehmer, co-author of the study and affiliated researcher of the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center, “These findings tell us that many people who do not allow smoking in their homes are making a different decision about allowing vaping inside their homes. Vaping indoors leads to the deposit of aerosol residue on surfaces, in much the same way as smoking indoors leads to the deposit of tobacco smoke residue, known as thirdhand smoke. While further research is needed to better understand the risks of exposure to the thirdhand aerosol residue left behind by vaping, it typically contains nicotine and may be producing some of the same types of harmful tobacco specific nitrosamines as have been found in thirdhand cigarette smoke.”
The researchers also found that former smokers who currently vape were much more likely to allow vaping inside the home than they allowed smoking. According to Drehmer, “Some people may be taking up vaping with harm reduction in mind, yet the implications of this study are clear: occupants of homes where smoking is banned are still at risk of exposure to nicotine and other chemicals if vaping is allowed instead. It is important we encourage all homes to be vape-free as well as smokefree to protect everyone who lives there from second- and thirdhand exposures.”
Furthermore, the study found that even though the majority of respondents limit smoking inside their homes, smoking is still allowed inside many homes. Nearly half (44%) of current smokers and over one-third of dual users allow smoking of combustible tobacco inside their homes. Drehmer says, “These figures tell us that we need to do more to educate people about the science of thirdhand smoke and how smokefree home policies can reduce the amount of toxic thirdhand smoke that accumulates in homes. We also know that by adopting a smokefree home, people increase the likelihood they will be able to successfully quit smoking.”
On a positive note, the researchers found that nearly all (91%) former smokers restrict smoking inside their homes. Drehmer says this speaks to the critical importance smoking cessation can have in the reduction of thirdhand smoke exposure, “One of the best ways to manage thirdhand smoke in a home is for all household members to quit smoking. People may consider using FDA-approved forms of nicotine replacement therapy that do not contribute to the pollution of indoor spaces, such as the patch and gum, to help them quit smoking.”
Click here to read the research study