We discuss the implications of possible contagion of COVID-19 through e-cigarette aerosol (ECA) for prevention and mitigation strategies during the current pandemic.
This is a relevant issue when millions of vapers (and smokers) must remain under indoor confinement and/or share public outdoor spaces with non-users. The fact that the respiratory flow associated with vaping is visible (as opposed to other respiratory activities) clearly delineates a safety distance of 1-2 meters along the exhaled jet to prevent direct exposure.
Vaping is a relatively infrequent and intermittent respiratory activity for which we infer a mean emission rate of 79.82 droplets per puff (6-200, standard deviation 74.66) comparable to mouth breathing, it adds into shared indoor spaces (home and restaurant scenarios) a 1% extra risk of indirect COVID-19 contagion with respect to a “control case” of existing unavoidable risk from continuous breathing.
As a comparative reference, this added relative risk increases to 44-176% for speaking 6-24 minutes per hour and 260% for coughing every 2 minutes. Mechanical ventilation decreases absolute emission levels but keeps the same relative risks.
As long as direct exposure to the visible exhaled jet is avoided, wearing of face masks effectively protects bystanders and keeps risk estimates very low. As a consequence, protection from possible COVID-19 contagion through vaping emissions does not require extra interventions besides the standard recommendations to the general population: keeping a social separation distance of 2 meters and wearing of face masks.
Roberto Sussman, Eliana Golberstein, Riccardo Polosa – Qeios – January 14, 2021.