Research gaps related to the environmental impacts of electronic cigarettes

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Abstract

Objective

To consider the research gaps related to the environmental impacts of electronic cigarettes due to their manufacture, use and disposal.

Methods

Literature searches were conducted through December 2013. Studies were included in this review if they related to the environmental impacts of e-cigarettes.

Results

Scientific information on the environmental impacts of e-cigarette manufacturing, use and disposal is very limited. No studies formally evaluated the environmental impacts of the manufacturing process or disposal of components, including batteries. Four studies evaluated potential exposure to secondhand e-cigarette aerosol, an indication of impacts on indoor air quality. A 2010 survey of six e-cigarette models found that none of the products provided disposal instructions for spent cartridges containing nicotine. Notably, some e-cigarette manufacturers claim their e-cigarettes are ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’, despite the lack of any supporting data or environmental impact studies. Some authors argue that such advertising may boost sales and increase e-cigarette appeal, especially among adolescents.

Conclusions

Little is known about the environmental impacts of e-cigarettes, and a number of topics could be further elucidated by additional investigation. These topics include potential environmental impacts related to manufacturing, use and disposal. The environmental impacts of e-cigarette manufacturing will depend upon factory size and the nicotine extracting method used. The environmental impacts of e-cigarette use will include chemical and aerosol exposure in the indoor environment. The environmental impacts of disposal of e-cigarette cartridges (which contain residual nicotine) and disposal of e-cigarettes (which contain batteries) represent yet another environmental concern.

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