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Most Adults Surveyed Don’t Know E-Cigarette Use Deposits Nicotine on Indoor Surfaces

10/21/2016

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U.S. survey shows most respondents agree that e-cigarette use should not be allowed in places where smoking is prohibited, yet use allowed in one-third of households

SAN FRANCISCO – Most U.S. adults surveyed in 2015 agree that e-cigarette use should not be allowed in places where smoking is prohibited. Yet one-third of respondents allow use of the devices within their home, and fewer than half said they knew that exhaled e-cigarette vapors contain nicotine that deposits on indoor surfaces.

The abstract, "Household rules about e‐cigarette use and beliefs about harms to children," will be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2016 National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco on Oct. 22. The study analyzed data from the 2015 Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control. Of the 3,070 adults responding to this survey, 68 percent said e‐cigarette use was not allowed inside their homes, and 77 percent prohibit use in the car. Most respondents (84 percent) also said they believe that e‐cigarette use should not be allowed in places that prohibit smoking, and that it is not acceptable for parents to use e‐cigarettes in front of children (74 percent).

However, according to abstract author Robert McMillen, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Mississippi State University, many adults were uncertain about the potential harms of e‐cigarettes. While more than a third of adults (37 percent) believe that exhaled e‐cigarette vapor contains nicotine, and that using e‐cigarettes indoors deposits nicotine on surfaces (37 percent), more than half have responded "don't know." In addition, roughly the same percentage of adults said that using e‐cigarettes around children exposes them to nicotine (44 percent) as said "don't know" (46 percent).

Further analysis showed that smokers, e‐cigarette users, males, and younger adults between the ages of 18 and 24, adults with lower levels of education, and adults without children in the household were less likely to have household rules against e‐cigarette use, and less likely to support use restrictions. Smokers, e‐cigarette users, and adults with lower levels of education tended to be less likely to believe that these products posed harms for children, while older adults and adults with children in the household tended to have higher levels of uncertainty about potential harms.

McMillen said the findings suggest an opportunity to educate parents about toxic exposure risks from e‐cigarette aerosols and to advise parents to keep their homes and vehicles free from both tobacco smoke and e‐cigarette emissions.

"E-cigarettes primarily emit a toxic aerosol, not harmless water vapor. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of the risk that exposure poses for their children and do not implement household rules to protect their children," Dr. McMillen said.

McMillen will present the abstract, "Household rules about e‐cigarette use and beliefs about harms to children," at 4 p.m. PT on Saturday, Oct. 22 in Moscone West room Room 2022/2024. For a copy of the abstract, contact the AAP Department of Public Affairs at (948) 434-7877 or commun@aap.org. To request an interview, reporters can contact him at rcm19@msstate.edu. He also will be available during an informal media meet-and-greet for highlighted abstract authors on Saturday, Oct. 22, beginning at 12:15 p.m. PT in room 134, Moscone North (Press Office). 

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org. ​

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