Secondhand Vaping Poses Hazard to Children

Despite misconceptions that secondhand exposure to electronic cigarette vapor does not affect bystanders, metabolites indicative of exposure are present in the blood and saliva of children whose parents smoke electronic cigarettes, according to research presented at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) National Conference on Pediatric Health Care held March 13 to 16, 2024, in Denver, Colorado.

In many cases, parents are not aware of the hazards associated with exposing children to secondhand electronic cigarette vapors. More than half (11 of 19) parents who participated in a focus group stated that they believed using electronic cigarettes with their child nearby was either a minor health hazard or not a health hazard at all, and 12 of 22 parents did not know whether electronic cigarette vapor was harmful to children, reported Jeannie Rodriguez, PhD, RN, CPNP-PC, and coauthors from Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health.

Blood tests are considered the gold standard for assessing exposure to secondhand smoke; this study was unique in that saliva testing from both passive drool and exhaled breath condensate were also incorporated.

Researchers found that saliva testing is a reliable tool for detecting secondhand smoke exposure in children; when comparing children aged 4 to 12 years whose parents use electronic cigarettes daily to children in the same age group whose parents do not smoke, metabolites that indicate exposure significantly differed between the two groups’ test results.

“This study has implications for parent education regarding the effects of vape smoke,”  said Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP. “Having a less invasive method to document the untoward effects of vape smoke on their children might affect the parents’ intention to stop the habit,” said Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP.”

Multiple detrimental effects are observed when children are exposed to secondhand electronic cigarette vapors; researchers found metabolites linked to dopamine disruption, oxidative stress, and inflammation present in these children that were not found in the control group.

The results of the blood and saliva tests were shared with parents to indicate the hazards associated with exposing children to secondhand electronic cigarette vapors.

Three key themes emerged from focus group interviews with parents: first, some parents turned to electronic cigarettes as a means to quit using traditional cigarettes. Second, some participants had a perceived belief that smoking electronic cigarettes is not as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes.

“The appeal for vaping is that at least in my mind. and I say this all the time to people that ask me, vaping for me is probably about 95% better than smoking cigarettes,” said one parent.

Finally, participants noted that the power of nicotine addiction compelled them to use electronic cigarettes regardless of their knowledge of potential harm.

These themes present barriers to cessation of electronic cigarette use for parents. The research team encourages nurse practitioners and all healthcare professionals to discuss secondhand exposure to both electronic and traditional cigarettes with families. By debunking the misconception that exposure to secondhand electronic cigarette vapor is not harmful to children, clinicians can help reduce their pediatric patients’ exposure to hazardous smoke.

The authors concluded by emphasizing that nurse practitioners and other health care professional much address the harmful effects of vape smoke exposure, as well as  second hand smoke, with their families during health care visits.

See Clinical Advisor’s conference section for more coverage of NAPNAP 2024.

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