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Journal: Applied Sciences


We examine the plausibility of aerial transmission of pathogens (including the SARS-CoV-2 virus) through respiratory droplets that might be carried by exhaled e-cigarette aerosol (ECA). Given the lack of empiric evidence on this phenomenon, we consider available evidence on cigarette smoking and respiratory droplet emission from mouth breathing through a mouthpiece as convenient proxies to infer the capacity of vaping to transport pathogens in respiratory droplets. Since both exhaled droplets and ECA droplets are within the Stokes regime, the ECA flow acts effectively as a visual tracer of the expiratory flow. To infer quantitatively the direct exposure distance, we consider a model that approximates exhaled ECA flow as an axially symmetric intermittent steady starting jet evolving into an unstable puff, an evolution that we corroborate by comparison with photographs and videos of actual vapers. On the grounds of all this theoretical modeling, we estimate for low-intensity vaping (practiced by 80–90% of vapers) the emission of 6–210 (median 39.9, median deviation 67.3) respiratory submicron droplets per puff and a horizontal distance spread of 1–2 m, with intense vaping possibly emitting up to 1000 droplets per puff in the submicron range with a distance spread over 2 m. The optical visibility of the ECA flow has important safety implications, as bystanders become instinctively aware of the scope and distance of possible direct contagion through the vaping jet.