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Impacts of Electronic Cigarette Emissions on Indoor Air Quality

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Investigator(s): Yifang Zhu, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2017 (Cycle 26) Grant #: 26IR-0002S Award: $373,096
Subject Area: Environmental Exposure/Toxicology
Award Type: High Impact Research Project Award

Initial Award Abstract

As smoking rates steadily decline, more smokers are turning to alternative products and cessation methods to wean off tobacco products. In recent years, electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) have become a popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes. E-cigs work by using a heating coil to vaporize a liquid solution containing propylene glycol, vegetable glycerol, nicotine, and flavoring compounds. As a person draws a vapor out from the e-cig, it will rapidly cool and condense to form a visible vapor cloud creating the sensation of smoke. Accompanying the increase in e-cig use and sales are the emergence of “vape” shops and lounges, where patrons can sample and purchase e-cig products and vape at their leisure. Although many cities and institutions have banned the use of e-cigs in public places such as restaurants and parks, unrestricted e-cig use is permitted in vape shops. Located in public multiunit buildings such as shopping plazas and commercial strips, vape shops are nearby other businesses and public indoor spaces, ranging from coffee shops to dance studios and tutoring centers. Considering that scientific studies have demonstrated that secondhand smoke from indoor cigarette use in one unit can transfer to smoke-free units in multiunit housing, research studies are needed to investigate the transfer of e-cig emissions from secondhand vaping (SHV) in vape shops to neighboring businesses in multiunit buildings. To date, no studies have been conducted to examine the potential transfer of e-cig emissions among neighboring units due to SHV. The major challenges are (1) quantifying the impact vape shops have on indoor air quality in multiunit public buildings, (2) identifying key predictors of SHV exposure that can be generalized across various multiunit buildings, and (3) predicting the transfer of SHV emissions in multiunit buildings. Studies modeling the transfer of secondhand smoke in multiunit housing have been done, but the transport of SHV emissions in multiunit buildings is poorly understood. We hypothesize that high pollutant levels in vape shops from e-cig activities are expected to increase the e-cig-related air pollutant concentrations in adjacent indoor spaces. We also postulate that vape shops with weak ventilation and higher e-cig activity will have higher levels of air pollutants, which will have a stronger impact on the neighboring indoor space. Furthermore, we will model e-cig-related air pollutants in a multiunit commercial building, with e-cig users in the vape shops being the primary emission sources, incorporating unique physio-chemical properties of SHV aerosols that differ from secondhand smoke. With the aid of models specific to SHV aerosol transport, mitigation strategies can be implemented and tested for effectiveness to reduce exposures to SHV in public multiunit buildings. The studies being proposed are to (1) to systematically measure e-cig-related air pollutants concentrations inside vape shops and neighboring businesses concurrently to identify major factors that influence indoor air quality in public multiunit buildings; and (2) to develop models to better understand the transport and transformation of e-cig-related air pollutants between vape shops and nearby indoor spaces. Vape shops are one of few commercial establishments where continuous vaping is permitted and common. Businesses nearby vape shops that are occupied for extended periods of time by children and other people highly sensitive to pollutants, like tutoring centers and medical offices, are at risk of high exposure to SHV. Ultimately, an understanding of the impact vape shops have on neighboring indoor spaces will inform public policy, enabling the development of policies that help prevent potential adverse health effects and improve indoor air quality attributable to SHV.