Most smokers understand the importance of keeping their homes smoke-free for the sake of their children's health. But their concern about secondhand smoke does not appear to apply to e-cigarettes, as a study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children shows. It looked at 750 parents who currently used cigarettes, e-cigarettes or both and focused on the habits and attitudes of e-cigarette users.

Roughly four out of five e-cigarette users (81 percent) and dual users (79 percent) did not ban vaping in both home and car. They were also much less likely to prohibit vaping inside their homes than to prohibit smoking tobacco cigarettes in them.

“The finding that a large majority of parents who use e-cigarettes permit vaping inside homes and cars is an alarming trend.”

“The finding that a large majority of parents who use e-cigarettes permit vaping inside homes and cars is an alarming trend,” lead author, Jeremy Drehmer, said in a statement. “We are concerned that parents have been misled by the marketing of vaping products and now believe that the aerosol produced by these products is harmless to children. Pediatric health care providers need to help set the record straight and inform parents that e-cigarette vapor is not safe for children.”

E-cigarettes can help smokers give up cigarettes. And while they are almost certainly safer than cigarettes, safer does not mean safe. They still emit toxic chemicals into the air and this is of special concern for children, whose small size and less-developed ability to neutralize these chemicals make them more susceptible to their ill effects.

To senior author Jonathan Winickoff, a practicing pediatrician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, it's a case of déjà vu: “Frankly, it's frightening — it's where we were with the exposure of children to combusted tobacco 25 years ago. Big tobacco markets e-cigarettes as healthy products without any consideration or warnings about the harms to infants and children. The truth is that all vape products create an invisible plume of nicotine and ultrafine toxic particles that spreads into the air and coats surfaces. Do the American people really want to wait another 25 years to see how this corporate experiment ends?”

An article on the study appears in Pediatrics.