Is vaping harmful?
- Research so far shows that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking.
- For people who smoke, e-cigarettes are an option to help them stop.
- E-cigarettes are not risk-free. We don't yet know their long-term effects, so people who have never smoked shouldn't use them.
What are e-cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes are also known as e-cigarettes or vapes. They heat a liquid so that it becomes a vapour that people can breathe in. They usually contain nicotine, which is the addictive chemical in cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, which is the harmful part of cigarettes.
Does vaping have side effects?
Lots of people want to know if e-cigarettes are safe and it’s too soon to say for sure. But studies so far show that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking. Most of the toxic chemicals in cigarettes are not present in e-cigarettes.
Some potentially dangerous chemicals have been found in e-cigarettes. But levels are usually low and generally far lower than in tobacco cigarettes. Exposure may be the same as people who use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as patches or gum.
There is no good evidence that vaping causes cancer.
But e-cigarettes are not risk-free. They have only become popular recently, so we don’t know what effects they might have in the long term. They should only be used to help you stop smoking, or to stop you going back to tobacco. If you have never smoked, you shouldn’t use e-cigarettes.
You may have heard about vaping causing an outbreak of lung illness in 2019 in the United States. An investigation found the cases were linked to contaminated illegal products. It was not linked to vaping regularly or in the long term. There was no similar outbreak in the UK, and the chemicals of concern are banned in e-cigarettes here. There is no good evidence that e-cigarettes bought from legal places cause lung disease.
What are the benefits of switching from smoking to vaping?
Vaping is far less harmful than smoking. So, your health could benefit from switching. But you need to stop using tobacco completely to get the benefits.
E-cigarettes can help people stop smoking and are a popular stop smoking tool.They can give people who smoke the nicotine hit they need to help beat their cravings. Vaping can also feel similar to smoking, like holding a cigarette and breathing in. For the best chance of stopping smoking for good, get advice from your local stop smoking service, GP or pharmacist.
Switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes could save you a lot of money. Some people spend more than others, but in general, vaping costs less than half as much as smoking.
Is passive vaping harmful?
There is no good evidence that second-hand vapour from e-cigarettes is harmful. As vapes are still relatively new, we can’t be sure there aren’t any long-term effects to people who breathe in someone else’s vapour. But this is unlikely to be harmful.
Passive vaping is not the same as passive smoking. This is because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco.
Is nicotine harmful?
Nicotine is the chemical that makes cigarettes addictive. But it is not responsible for the harmful effects of smoking. Nicotine does not cause cancer, and people have used nicotine replacement therapy safely for many years. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is safe enough to be prescribed by doctors.
McNeill, A. et al. Evidence review of e- cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England (2018).
Royal College of Physicians. Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction. (2016).
Goniewicz, M. L. et al. Exposure to Nicotine and Selected Toxicants in Cigarette Smokers Who Switched to Electronic Cigarettes: A Longitudinal Within-Subjects Observational Study. Nicotine Tob. Res. 19, 160–167 (2017).