June 3rd, 2010
12:18 PM ET

My boss smokes e-cigarettes in the office. Is this safe?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Thien Pham, Laramie, WY

“I have a supervisor who is starting to smoke electronic cigarettes in his office. I am wondering what the secondhand smoking health effect is from electronic smoke (such as e-smoke products). Is it legal for people to smoke e-cigarettes inside? Thank you.”


This is a great question, Thien, because the mere concept of an electronic cigarette is confusing for folks. These electronic alternatives to conventional cigarettes are touted as a safe alternative to smoking. The suggestion is that secondhand vapor from an e-cigarette might be safe too.

Well, not so fast. The safety record for e-smoke products and the vapor they emit thus far is, well, hazy. There have been no studies about safety for these products in the U.S.

First, it is important to know the difference between an e-cigarette and a conventional one. E-cigarettes, since they are not lit by fire, skip the combustion process. So there is no smoldering, smoky burn at the tip like you would see when lighting a conventional cigarette. Instead, e-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine encased in a plastic filter. When you take a "puff" or inhale on this cigarette surrogate, a small battery warms the nicotine in that filter, creating a thin stream of vapor when exhaled.

Right now, there is no federal ban on indoor e-cigarette smoking, although there are states such as New Jersey that are trying. New Jersey's argument is based, in part, on a recent Food and Drug Administration analysis of ingredients contained in these products. Turns out that despite that lack of combustion, some of the most popular e-cigarette brands contain carcinogens - they could still cause cancer. The FDA has also detected a toxic chemical found in antifreeze in some leading brands.

That means that although manufacturers of these e-cigarettes say they are pretty sure their product is safe, the jury is still out about the health effects (and consequently secondhand effects) with e-cigarettes.

Another argument for safety by e-cigarette manufacturers is that they contain nicotine, but none of the other harmful additives in cigarettes. Nicotine on its own is highly addictive and we do not know yet the the health effects of inhaling pure nicotine, nor do we know what could happen if those toxic substances the FDA found could harm folks in close proximity to the "e-smoker."

In a nutshell, until we know more, you may want to - protectively - steer clear from your supervisor's office.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Filed under: Cancer • Expert Q&A • Smoking

Next entry »
soundoff (270 Responses)
  1. valentino studded slingbacks

    valentino wedges saks cheap vintage valentino outlet for sale cheap vintage valentino outlet for sale valentino flats sandals rodolfo valentino shoes rodolfo valentino shoes replica valentino valentino rock stud valentino rock stud red valentino jersey ballet flats nordstrom valentino sandals nordstrom valentino sandals cheap valentino shoe cheap valentino discount outlet for sale cheap valentino discount outlet for sale valentino flats 101 valentino flats sale valentino flats sale valentino flats gettysburg pink valentino shoes pink valentino shoes valentino rockstud flats celebrities valentino rockstud slingbacks valentino rockstud slingbacks
    valentino studded slingbacks http://lucasforesti.com.br/resti/?tags=valentino-studded-slingbacks

    July 22, 2015 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. cara membuat website

    sosial angkot menengah waktu pola menjelaskan pepatah hari mencari menerus tidak hal sehingga dalam bisa demi pemula belajar Banyak


    January 18, 2016 at 00:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. distributor besi wf

    A great exposition on posterior probabilities, their dependence on prior probabilities, and problem of choosing the prior probabilities… in the service of reverse inference. But you seem to dismiss the value of the default 50/50 prior.> Unfortunately, as you can see in the above figure, the variation in the posterior that’s attributable to the choice of prior will tend to swamp the variation that’s due to observed differences in brain activity.But by using a fixed 50/50 value puts all the terms on a level playing field, no? And then makes for a useful comparison between terms, right?


    March 26, 2016 at 05:59 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Next entry »
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.