Is electronic cigarette smoking in the home safer for your cat companion with respect to passive smoking? Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are becoming increasingly popular. They are considered to be more healthy than conventional cigarettes and people hope that they will stop smoking when they use them. Some time ago, I read that there were about 4,000 toxins in conventional cigarettes. They are hopelessly poisonous. They also poisonous to the domestic cat by way of passive smoking. I would have thought that most cigarette smokers and cat caretakers/guardians are concerned about their cat smoking passively.
See also: Second-hand Vaping: Heinz Body Anemia (opens new window/tab)
If they are concerned and if they can’t stop smoking then I would have thought they would have considered converting to electronic cigarettes believing that they might eliminate the possibility of passive smoking. As 42,000,000 people in America still smoke (about 18% of the population as at 2012), the possible effects of cigarette smoke on a domestic cat’s health in the home would appear to be fairly substantial.
The question, therefore, is: are electronic cigarettes healthier for a domestic cat, particularly full-time indoor cats? My initial research indicates that this is work in progress. E-cigarettes are a current phenomenon. Their use is rapidly expanding and they are becoming big business. Also, the technology of electronic cigarettes is improving. Do the improvements reduce the possibility of passive smoking?
In December 2013, the World Health Organisation stated that electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes but they still delivered some toxins. The Journal of Public Health Policy stated that electronic cigarettes were much safer than tobacco cigarettes. However, there still appears to be a dearth of conclusive studies about the effects of electronic cigarettes on health.
At the outset, when electronic cigarettes were first produced they were not banned in the workplace in all but 3 of the 28 states that had banned conventional cigarettes. However, there appears to be a gradual increase in the banning of electronic cigarettes in the workplace as it dawns on people that they are not as safe as once thought. 150 municipalities in United States have banned what is called “vaping” in public places.
Critics of the 2 billion-a-year electronic cigarette business state that early studies show that dangerous toxins can be present in the exhaled vapour. The liquid inside the cigarette which is vaporised not only contains nicotine but propylene glycol, glycerin and nitrosamines. Advocates of electronic cigarettes say that these chemicals are harmless. The nitrosamines are present in such small quantities that they are not dangerous, advocates say. Cadmium, lead and nickel are also present in small doses. The jury is out on how these affect health.
The vapour produced by e-cigs is odourless but a study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research shows that electronic cigarettes generate sufficient nicotine emissions to be inhaled by people near the smoker. However, on the plus side, the study found that electronic cigarettes are not a source of the other toxic compounds released when conventional cigarettes are smoked (this appears to conflict with the other study referred to). Also, on the positive side, passive nicotine exposure was 10 times less than from tobacco smoke (conventional cigarettes). On the downside, the study revealed that people who smoke electronic cigarettes inhale more nicotine because they used the cigarettes more vigourously.
My personal, initial conclusion, is that e-cigarettes are safer for the domestic cat at home in respect of passive smoking. There is still work to be done, though, and it is quite possible that further studies might reveal unforeseen hazards (but please see Marc’s comment below which puts balance into this debate). In the meantime, cat guardians who smoke should obviously take as much care as possible to avoid passive smoking by their domestic cat companion. I would be interested to know how people arrange that. Do cigarette smokers smoke in certain parts of the home and keep their cats away from those areas? To what degree does cigarette smoke permeate the home even if the person restricts smoking to a certain area?
Photo of e-cigarette by Lindsay Fox