The jury’s no longer out on vaping. Mountains of research in recent years have shown inhaling high doses of nicotine and heavy metals in e-cigarettes can lead to similar damage to the heart and lungs as smoking traditional cigarettes.
And now, researchers are beginning to warn of the dangers of second-hand nicotine vapor, which likely prompted a new law in Alabama banning residents from vaping in cars with children under 14 present.
Yet as millions of workers will attest, their colleagues are still vaping en masse in offices and other workplaces such as bars and restaurants across the country.
The ease of use and lack of smell means staff can subtly puff at their desks or in the break room without letting off plumes of pungent smoke, which can be odorless or sweet-smelling.
Experts told DailyMail.com society has been slow to catch up to the reality that these devices pose a serious risk to people’s health.
An estimated 76 percent of e-cigarette users report vaping at work, which raises the risk of polluting the indoor air
Research shows that workplace vaping bothered the majority of adults -over 62 percent — although rates varied by industry
The majority of adults surveyed — nearly 62 percent — observed coworkers vaping at work and more than three-quarters of e-cigarette users reported vaping at work themselves
Seeing co-workers vape surreptitiously in the office is commonplace – nearly 62 percent of workers see it daily.
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that 76 percent of e-cigarette users reported vaping at work.
And this is a real concern. The aerosolized byproducts of vapes pollute the surrounding air, potentially endangering workers. And non-vapers are fed up, with 74 percent supporting a vape-free workplace. Even vape users – at least 53 percent – support an indoor vaping ban at work.
Those points represent just one set of findings pointing to a growing sense that vaping at work, in bars, and in restaurants should be outlawed, yet in many places it’s not.
Thomas Carr, the Director of National Policy at the American Lung Association told DailyMail.com: ‘The fact that they’re using them indoors, it’s very troubling to hear about this, that workplaces are just turning a blind eye to this because it’s not acceptable to allow vaping indoors.’
He added that a shift to working at home full time during the pandemic, when people could vape without disrupting anyone around them, certainly added to the devices widespread use once people returned to their offices in person.
Mr Carr said: ‘Not being in a workplace and understanding some of the norms that need to exist there and that your vaping is bothering other people. Because there are probably employees in these in places where this is happening that are tolerating it silently, and or maybe even not silently. And I think it’s just that things aren’t being done about it.’
A survey conducted in the fall of 2018 reported that, overall, more than 78 percent supported a policy to keep tobacco products out of view in stores where children can shop. More than 63 percent supported a policy to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes altogether.
The majority of participants – 76 percent – also supported prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in bars, 83 percent supported a ban in all indoor public places such as offices and casinos, and 87 percent want a ban in restaurants.
Many workplaces have no rules in place governing vape use in the office, which gives employees tacit permission to puff on the devices at their desks.
Dr Ashley Merianos, a professor at the University of Cincinnati with expertise in tobacco control, told DailyMail.com that the lack of hard and fast rules is a problem: ‘There may be confusion about whether vapes are covered by tobacco-free policies in work environments if there is no written policy addressing vaping, especially since these products became available on the market after combustible tobacco products.
She added: ‘Even if there is no tobacco-free law that prohibits tobacco use in the work place, it is encouraged that employers enact a strict, comprehensive tobacco-free policy that covers combustible tobacco products and non-combustible tobacco products, including vapes.’
But the days of being able to puff on e-cigarettes with impunity in bars, casinos, college campuses, and work spaces could be coming to an end amid an expanding body of scientific research that shows vaping could be as dangerous to one’s heart and lung health as cigarette smoking.
Societal attitudes toward vaping and how innocuous – or not – it might be have changed noticeably over the past decade.
Part of the shift in perspective came after an outbreak of e-cigarette- or vaping-use-associated lung injury (EVALI) that began in 2019 and by February 2020 had reached a total of more than 2,800 hospitalizations and 68 deaths.
Dr Jason Rose, a physician who specializes in lung injuries, told DailyMail.com that the EVALI outbreak of 2019 finally brought dangers of vaping into the mainstream.
He said: ‘That did create a situation where it really got publicized that, hey, you know, these might not be completely safe. And that was probably a moment where it’s like, these can actually cause a problem, a clear and present problem.
‘These products really came out 10, 15 years ago, and they just more recently have been getting more publicity.’
Despite overwhelming support for having vaping policies at work per the Truth Initiative, about a third of workplaces don’t have such policies in place
In a recent report from the American Heart Association and co-authored by Dr Rose, it was determined vape devices contain a cocktail of nicotine, thickeners, solvents, and flavors that likely pose the same severe risks to cardiovascular health, including raising blood pressure levels and heart rate, as smoking traditional cigarettes.
The true extent of the health harms brought on by vaping, such as driving increased risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), likely won’t become apparent for many more years, though.
Dr Rose said: ‘Biomedical science and research have advanced significantly in the last 120 years. I think we have an experience with what [health harms of] combustible cigarettes looked like historically, that we can use to try to understand a little bit better what these vaping practices have an effect on.
‘We have to be strategic about our research because developing a hard link between product use and COPD, which takes decades to develop, we’re just not able to see it. They’ve only been on the market for 10, 15 years.’
And secondhand aerosols from high-nicotine vape products, while not laced with the same thousands of carcinogens produced as a byproduct of burning tobacco in cigarettes, are not as innocuous as once thought.
The plumes that come from a vaping device such as a Juul or a PuffBar can smell fruity, sweet, or like nothing at all, which scientists believe has lulled users into a false sense of security.
Vapes spew out 22 times the safe level of microscopic toxins known as particulate matter, which is small enough that when inhaled can cause respiratory issues and enter the bloodstream.
Dr Rose said: ‘I would say we don’t have a lot of data on the health risks for secondhand vaping product inhalation. I think policies that follow where other inhaled tobacco products are prohibited (e.g. not allowing smoking in most enclosed workplaces) are prudent.’
A separate 2019 study in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health sought to measure the lingering effects of taking in second-hand aerosol from e-cigarettes following exposure for about six hours at vaping conventions.
Researchers found chemical markers from exposure to nicotine and tobacco in the environment spiked in 28 people who did not regularly vape after attending in-person conferences where they were surrounded by vapor.
They did not, however, vape themselves. Yet their bodies showed signs of exposure to nicotine and how it is metabolized.
In their urine, levels of two substances, cotinine and trans-3′-hydroxycotinine, were elevated, while levels of cotinine, trans-3′-hydroxycotinine, 3-HPMA, and CEMA were higher in their spit. And concentrations of each varied depending on how much time had passed since the conferences.
The findings signaled that being around e-cigarettes without puffing on them can still lead to higher concentrations of these substances in the body.
They also poke a gaping hole in the argument held by millions who vape that passive exposure to the vapor emitted by the devices must be harmless because it does not leave behind the offensive odor of a traditional cigarette.
With that growing evidence, more people have become aware of this common fallacy and are willing to re-examine cultural norms around vaping.
As the research builds, more officials in states and local governments are implementing various limits on where people can vape.
New York added vaping to be included in the Clean Indoor Air Act in 2017, formally banning it in indoor places. It is one of several states to have passed similar bans, most of which are Democrat-run.
In 2016, California imposed its own ban on vaping in indoor public places, including work settings. Illinois passed a similar ban in 2014 while New Jersey passed one in 2010.
Delaware was the most recent to ban indoor vaping with a law in 2019.
As more research emerges pointing to the deleterious effects of vaping and the aerosol the devices produce, more states and localities are expected to pass restrictions on their use indoors.