Assessing the risks of passive vaping and second-hand smoke
While the harmful effects of smoking are well-documented, the impact of second-hand smoke and e-cigarette vapour are still being determined. An EU-funded project aims to improve understanding, inform policy and reduce the economic and healthcare burden caused by exposure to these emissions.
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Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke has been shown to cause serious health problems, including heart disease and respiratory disorders. As smokers seek alternatives, sales of electronic cigarettes have increased significantly across the European Union.
To improve understanding of the risk to bystanders and develop methods to tackle the resulting healthcare burden and economic losses, the EU-funded TACKSHS project is carrying out research in 12 countries to examine the health impact of second-hand smoke and e-cigarette emissions.
The preliminary results indicate that exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and nicotine in particular occurs in an important amount of public areas that are often not regulated by smoke-free policies, such as childrens playgrounds, with alarming levels of exposure in some countries, says project coordinator Esteve Fernández of the Institut Català dOncologia in Barcelona, Spain.
High nicotine levels near children
The project comprises nine studies, for which the fieldwork is either finalised or still being conducted. One study involves assessing exposure to second-hand smoke by measuring nicotine concentrations in outdoor, non-regulated areas, such as childrens playgrounds, school entrances and cafe terraces, as well as in indoor private settings such as cars and homes.
Analysis of nicotine concentrations is continuing but preliminary results indicate that airborne nicotine was detected in 36 % of playgrounds, 50 % of school entrances and more than 90 % of terraces, with very high concentrations at some playgrounds, especially in Romania, Greece and Bulgaria. Nicotine was also detected in the houses and cars of smokers even in some cases where the participants reported not smoking in those settings.
Researchers also observed statistically significant differences for some of the variables between districts with high and low socioeconomic status.
These are just some of the preliminary results of one of the studies, says Fernández. Nevertheless, they already suggest arguments for promotion of smoke-free places and advocacy of policies that will protect the population, especially children, from involuntary exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.