Adults are more likely to use e-cigarettes if they live with children, which could be exposing them to harmful compounds, new research suggests.
According to a letter published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, 4.9 per cent of Americans living with someone under the age of 18 vape, compared to 4.2 per cent of adults living without children.
This figure rose to 5.6 per cent for those living with a child who suffers from asthma.
While the risks of exposing children to secondhand cigarette smoke are well-documented, those surrounding e-cigarettes are not yet known.
But children living with an adult who vapes may be exposed to secondhand aerosols, which the researchers describe as “an amalgam of compounds with yet unknown health consequences”.
These may include formaldehyde, heavy metals, nicotine and ultrafine particulate.
The data was collected from the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationally represented phone survey conducted in 2016 and 2017.
More than 856,000 participants were included in the survey. Some, but not all of them, also used combustible cigarettes, however, the study did not include data on whether or not these individuals started smoking or using e-cigarettes first.
Lead author Jenny Carwile of Maine Medical Center in Portland said: “E-cigarette users commonly perceive the aerosols as harmless ‘water vapours’ and are unlikely to have family rules governing e-cigarette use in homes and vehicles.”
Speaking to The Independent, Carwile added that non-users can be exposed to these chemicals through secondhand exposure.
"More research needs to be done on the health effects of secondhand exposure to e-cigarette aerosols," she added. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do not use e-cigarettes around children, particularly in cars and homes and that smoke free laws be expanded to e-cigarettes."
The letter comes after a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that some e-cigarette cartridges and vape liquids are contaminated with bacteria and fungi that could cause lung infections and asthma.
Despite the possible risks, public health officials are campaigning to encourage smokers to make the transition from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, which they say are 95 per cent safer.
In December 2018, Public Health England (PHE) launched a campaign to highlight this. At the time, PHE director of health improvement Professor John Newton said it would be “tragic” if smokers were putting off quitting due to “false fears about safety” of e-cigarettes.
"We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking,” he said.
"We want to encourage more smokers to try and quit completely with the help of an e-cigarette, or by using other nicotine replacement such as patches or gum, as this will significantly improve their chances of success.”
You can read more about the NHS’ Stop Smoking services here.
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