Q: Our son vapes in his bedroom. Is it okay for him to use his e-cigarette when our dog Smoky is in his room?
A: No. E-cigarettes are electronic smoking devices, or ESDs, which heat, vaporize and emit numerous harmful chemicals that expose pets and people to substantial risk. If your son must vape, he should do it outdoors to protect Smoky and the rest of the family from the ESD emissions.
The term "vaping" is a misnomer that implies ESDs emit harmless water vapor, when in fact, they discharge an aerosol filled with toxic chemicals at levels even higher than in tobacco smoke.
Some of these chemicals cause cancer and are reproductive toxins. Carcinogens in the aerosol include nitrosamines, formaldehyde, cadmium, lead and nickel. When an ESD heats propylene glycol, a common ingredient in vaping liquid, it forms propylene oxide, a known carcinogen.
Exhaled ESD aerosol also contains nicotine. Research shows that nonsmoking bystanders absorb the same amount of nicotine whether they are exposed to secondhand ESD aerosol or tobacco smoke. Aerosolized nicotine also adheres to surfaces where it promotes "third-hand" exposure.
ESD aerosol contains higher concentrations of fine and ultrafine particles than tobacco smoke. These tiny particles are inhaled deeper into the lungs than the larger tobacco smoke particles, which increases the risk of developing severe lung disease.
Aerosols also contain flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung damage, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene, a poison in automobile exhaust. Moreover, ESD aerosol contains carbonyls and other chemicals that cause heart attacks and other cardiovascular damage.
A study on the behavioral effects of secondhand vaping and smoking on dogs from 2,857 homes found significantly higher excitability and separation-related problems in households where someone vaped.
So, join the many national and international health organizations that recommend ESDs not be used indoors. If your son can't stop vaping, ask him to vape outside and stay away from Smoky when he does.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.