Are electronic cigarettes safer for your cat at home?

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.

  The domestic cat and passive smoking from electronic cigarettes

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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 โ€œvaping” 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 byย Lindsay Fox

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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15 Responses

  1. Dee (Florida) says:

    I really didn’t think I had any response to this topic, but I guess I do.

    I don’t believe that any decent caretaker would intentionally harm their cat(s).
    We’re human, imperfect, and submit our cats to many harmful things sometimes.
    Smoking, maybe even e-cig smoking, isn’t good; but there is so much more that we do. Marc touched on many things. I think he was right when he talked about balance and using caution.

    I’ve burned incense and candles. Just 2 weeks ago, I burned the eggplant I was cooking so badly that it set off the smoke alarms. I have less than healthy cleaning and grooming products, my car has emissions, there are times that I must use insecticides, and my house is never spotless. As much as I try to keep dust to a minimum and wash my bed linens every 5 days, I can still feel the sprinkling of dust mite poo when I pull my covers up at times.

    It’s all about just doing the best we can do.
    It could include taking smoking products outside, secluding cats in one room if toxic products need to be used, and keeping a closer eye on your eggplant.

    • Marc touched on many things. I think he was right when he talked about balance and using caution

      I agree, Marc made a good comment. That said we should at least know about these things so we can make our own judgements. Knowledge is good as long it is more than a little bit which can be bad!

      The idea behind the article to at least inform people of the potential problems from electronic cigarettes and then they can make their own decisions based upon their own research.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    Electronic cigarettes can be even worse for the health than ordinary ones:

    OK maybe it was a freak incident but worth the risk of this happening in a home with pets?
    I certainly don’t think so.

    • Thanks for that Ruth. I remember this. Some (v.few) e-cigs are dangerous because of manufacturing defects (are they made in China?!) Sorry if that sounds racist.

      • Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

        They are probably made very cheaply by poor workers on slave labour wages ๐Ÿ™

        • Wikipedia says that most electronic cigarettes are made in China. Make what you will of that simple statement. Some consumer items that come out of China are poor in quality. We know about that from previous cases of tainted cat food ingredients. And yes, employee rights in China are, as I understand it, very poor.

  3. Another attempt at uploading a picture….

  4. marc says:

    Michael – compared to not smoking these will be worse.

    But compared to regular cigarrettes there is not a shred of doubt in anyoes mind that they are, by comparism, harmless.

    Less toxic than incense sticks, less toxic than car fumes, – plus it’s vapour and it’s gone beofre anybody else can breath it.

    Its far far worse to have a person in the room with a cold than somebody puffing on a bit of steam basically.

    Plus I get organic vegetable based glycol. Eco something or other.

    Just from smoking them I laugh at those Welsh freaks trying to ban it. They are just conservative and they simply dont like smoking or smokers. They have no argument of any strength at all. Sure a dog could die from eating an ecig with high nicotine content but the same dog will die if it bites into a thing of bleach, or it could get hurt if it touches a hot frying pan.

    It’s about us taking care.

    And the whole anti ecig brigade are a bunch of conservative devil’s advocates who ca’t accept that it might not be so bad at all. They will look for some tiny bad thing and magnify it.


    Everything has something bad about it.

    So I am just so sick and tired of this nonsense. One has to put it in context. People smoke cigarettes. There are poisonous things in our lives. Now tell me why of all of those it’s suddenly ecigs which are dangerous and bla bla bla.

    To say I hate the people who are anti any kind of smoking would be an understatement. They are mostly ignorant foold who bitch about smoking and then drive off in their cars. The hypochrisy and bullying of smokers is disgusting. First they tax us then they berate us.

    I’m sorry but it makes me so angry. Finally there is an effective way to enjoy smoking. But the truth is that SOME PEOPLE DONT LIKE THE SIMPLE IDEA THAT SMOKING EXISTED FOREVER AND CAN BE FUN AND ACCEPTABLE AND CULTURAL – so they will search for any reason to ‘protect the kids’ from starting smoking. IT’s disingenuous and since it involves life and death it is downright bloody evil to campaign against it. Evil. Smokers are ‘less than’ to them.

    This to me is pure pure evil.

    And I can see the cats don’t get ANY of the vapour because – unlike smoke, it goes away. A room may smell of smoke, which the cats breath. But a room almost never smells of vapour. I can inhale and hold the vapour and nothing comes out.

    So I don’t see how the cats are getting any of it. I doubt even a lung-full since I started. Besides, what?! I should go back to smoking regular cigarettes now because some evil people don’t like smoking?

    Man those Welsh look like idiots in the interviews. They haven’t a leg to stand on they are just horrible nasty conservative …….. ! Keeping things PG13 these days ๐Ÿ™‚

    • marc says:

      The thing is that smoking is nice and fun and so it should be. If it isn’t then don’t do it. Personally I like ecigs because they taste nicer and they are not bad for you.

      Michael my doctor said living in London alone – is like smoking 20 normal cigarettes a day for your lungs – for a non smoker that is. Just that.

      And people are fussing over a tiny bit of vapor – because it is tiny by comparism. It’s outrageous and its basically ostracising a bunch of people on the low end mainstream societal values.

      • Good point. It can never be a clear-cut matter and what you say about living in London is a bit shocking to me but it does not surprise me that your doctor told you that. I guess it’s time to move out of London ๐Ÿ˜‰ Although, I do live a little distance from the centre of London which I hope helps in terms of air quality.

        There is probably a difference though in willingly participating in smoking over which people should have some control, although it is highly addictive, and having to live in London where a lot of the job opportunities are.

        Perhaps the main reason why smokers are ostracised and why governments want to gradually phase out smoking is because of economic reasons basically. What I mean is there is tax revenue in purchasing cigarettes so the government gains there, but set against that there is the National Health Service costs of providing care to people who become ill because of smoking. This must be a balancing act between these 2 competing forces.

        • marc says:

          Yes – and the other formidable force are the big tobacco companies. Apparently they supply the nicotine often. But – and you will have guessed this already – they are lobbying hard against ecigs.

          Did you know that the airline is not allowed to stop you smoking an ecig on the plane. It went through court – in many countries in many contexts – and it never hold up because:

          1. It is not smoke – therefore you can do it in a non smoking area, legally.
          2. There is no fire, so from the point of view of safety they haven’t a leg to stand on.

          When the big guys lose in court they don’t exactly announce it do they. But it’s true. The airline is in theory not allowed to stop you ‘vaping’ – at least not under the supposed catch all of ‘no smoking’ regulations.

      • I completely take your point. You have added balance to the discussion, which I love.

    • Excellent points Marc. I tend to agree. I think this is about money, taxpayer’s money and insurance companies etc..

    • I have to disagree with you. Cigarette smoke doesn’t cause air conditioning units to seize up. The vapor lingers far longer than cigarette would and is a sickly blue. The safest alternative to either is the patch. When will they figure it out? I have a grocery list of health issues from smoking. Emphysema, COPD, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. aren’t worth it.

      I smoked for years. I just did it away from others who were sick or did not like the smell. I just didn’t feel like I had the right to force my will upon others. I have no problem with people who smoke. Vaping is crazy. It hasn’t been fully tested. Who knows what your putting in to your lungs?

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