Passive exposure to pollutants from conventional cigarettes and new electronic smoking devices (IQOS, e-cigarette) in passenger cars

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2019 Apr;222(3):486-493. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.01.003. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Smoking in car interiors is of particular concern because concentrations of potentially harmful substances can be expected to be high in such small spaces. To assess the potential exposure for occupants, especially children, we performed a comprehensive evaluation of the pollution in 7 passenger cars while tobacco cigarettes and new electronic smoking products (IQOS, e-cigarette) were being smoked. We collected data on the indoor climate and indoor air pollution with fine and ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds while the cars were being driven. Smoking of an IQOS had almost no effect on the mean number concentration (NC) of fine particles (>300 nm) or on the PM2.5 concentration in the interior. In contrast, the NC of particles with a diameter of 25-300 nm markedly increased in all vehicles (1.6-12.3 × 104/cm3). When an e-cigarette was vaped in the interior, 5 of the 7 tested cars showed a strong increase in the PM2.5 concentration to 75-490 μg/m3. The highest PM2.5 levels (64-1988 μg/m3) were measured while tobacco cigarettes were being smoked. With the e-cigarette, the concentration of propylene glycol increased in 5 car interiors to 50-762 μg/m3, whereby the German indoor health precaution guide value for propylene glycol was exceeded in 3 vehicles and the health hazard guide value in one. In 4 vehicles, the nicotine concentration also increased to 4-10 μg/m3 while the e-cigarette was being used. The nicotine concentrations associated with the IQOS and e-cigarette were comparable, whereas the highest nicotine levels (8-140 μg/m3) were reached with tobacco cigarettes. Cigarette use also led to pollution of the room air with formaldehyde (18.5-56.5 μg/m3), acetaldehyde (26.5-141.5 μg/m3), and acetone (27.8-75.8 μg/m3). Tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and the IQOS are all avoidable sources of indoor pollutants. To protect the health of other non-smoking passengers, especially that of sensitive individuals such as children and pregnant women, these products should not be used in cars.

Keywords: E-cigarette; IQOS; Indoor air; Passenger cars; Passive exposure; Tobacco cigarette.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Aldehydes / analysis
  • Automobiles*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketones / analysis
  • Male
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Smoking Devices*
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Aldehydes
  • Ketones
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Nicotine