More bad news for e-cigarette smokers trying to live a healthier lifestyle by “vaping” instead of smoking: According to several new reports, while the fluid used in e-cigarettes may be safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, the key word isn’t “safe,” but “safer.”

Fort Collins-based dentist Dr. Allison Lesko says that’s because while e-cigarette vapor is definitely healthier than inhaling smoke, it’s the chemicals in e-cigarette fluid that pose the real risk.

“The problem is, we just don’t know what those chemicals are doing,” says Lesko.

That’s down to several reasons – one main one being vaping fluids vary by manufacturer.

“There’s very little consistency or clarity about what’s in each individual flavor of vape fluid,” Lesko says.

Another problem? Lesko says, unlike with traditional cigarettes, there are simply no long-term studies yet.

“Vaping is too new of a thing to have any data on its long-term effects,” says Lesko. “So while manufacturers are telling us it’s safer, there’s no way to verify that either way.”

And therein lies another problem: the word “safer.” While manufacturers are deliberate with their use of the word, consumers may not be hearing that “r” at the end.

“When it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping, safer doesn’t automatically mean safe,” says Lesko. “It just means it’s safer than paper cigarettes, which doesn’t really tell us a whole lot.”

That’s because not only do we not know what the long-term effects on the smoker are, but we also don’t know what the long-term effects on second- and third-hand smokers are, either.

“People assume that because it’s vapor it evaporates into the air and doesn’t have any second-hand effects,” Lesko says. “But it doesn’t just vanish. Studies have shown it can still be inhaled via second-hand smoke, and those chemicals in the vapor don’t simply vanish – they fall to the ground or whatever surface is nearby.”

That falling to nearby surfaces poses yet another risk to anyone who touches those surfaces – including other adults, pets and, yes, children too.

“The effect vaping could have on children is a big deal,” says Lesko. “One article mentioned that children spend more time on the floor and absorb more dust particles than adults do. If those dust particles contain chemicals left behind by vaping, you’re packing a lot of potentially dangerous carcinogens into a relatively small body that is still growing and developing – and that could be very dangerous.”

As for the solution, Lesko and other experts agree: To make vaping truly safe, don’t do it – but if you must, treat it as you would smoking traditional cigarettes.

“Don’t vape in the house or car or around children. Treat it as you would regular second-hand smoke,” she says.