Male hand holding a vape surrounded by smoke


What is Vaping?

Nicotine vaping is one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking and substantially less harmful than smoking tobacco.

Costs of e-cigarettes can vary, but generally they’re much cheaper than cigarettes.

Vaping is not recommended for non-smokers and young people because it is not completely harmless. But if you are a tobacco smoker considering switching it could be right for you and will almost certainly reduce your risks of cancer, COPD and a range of smoking-caused diseases.

E-cigarettes are most effective if used with support from an NHS stop smoking service.

Want to find out more? Read the Q&A below – source 

Vapes are electronic devices that let you inhale nicotine in an aerosol, or vapour, instead of smoke. This is done by heating a solution (e-liquid) that typically contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, flavourings and nicotine.

E-liquids come in different nicotine strengths, so you control how much nicotine you need to help with cravings and other withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling irritable and having low mood.

Nicotine itself is not very harmful and has been usedfely for many years in medicines to help people stop smoking. Many thousands of people in the UK have stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette. There’s good evidence that they can be effective.

Did you know?

You’re roughly twice as likely to quit smoking if you use a nicotine vape compared with other nicotine replacement products, like patches or gum.

Using an e-cigarette can help you manage your nicotine cravings. Make sure you’re using it as much as you need to and with the right strength of nicotine in your e-liquid.

Some people find vaping helps them because the hand-to-mouth action is like smoking, plus you get similar sensations, like throat hit (the “kick” in the back of your throat when you inhale).

You will not get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely. You can get advice from a specialist vape shop or your local stop smoking service.

Getting expert help from your local stop smoking service gives you the best chance of quitting smoking for good.

Find your local stop smoking service.

Evidence shows that vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking. Vaping exposes users to far fewer toxins and at lower levels than smoking cigarettes.

E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.

The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

Switching to vaping significantly reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease, and diseases of the heart and circulation like heart attack and stroke. These diseases are not caused by nicotine, which is relatively harmless to health.

However, vaping is not risk-free. Non-smokers and young people under 18 should not take up vaping.

Long-term effects of vaping

Vaping has not been around for long enough to know the risks of long-term use. While vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking, it is unlikely to be totally harmless.

The healthiest option is not to smoke or vape. So, if you are vaping to quit smoking, you should aim to eventually stop vaping too.

Vaping versus smoking

Cigarettes release thousands of different chemicals when they burn. Many are poisonous and up to 70 cause cancer. They also cause other serious illnesses, including lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

Most of the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, including tar and carbon monoxide, are not contained in vape aerosol.

Watch the UK Health Security Agency’s video demonstration on the impact of smoking versus vaping.

Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes but is not the substance which causes most of the health risks from smoking.

Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.

Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.

How to choose and use a vape

There are a variety of vapes including:

  • vape pens with a tank you fill with your choice of e-liquid, and a replaceable coil and rechargeable battery
  • vape mods, customisable devices with variable power (these are more difficult to use and need more maintenance)
  • vape bars shaped like a highlighter pen (these can be rechargeable and refillable with e-liquid capsules but are usually disposable)
  • compact pod devices shaped like a flash drive or pebble (either rechargeable and refillable with e-liquid capsules, or disposable)

Which vape is best to quit smoking?

A vape bar, pod device or vape pen are good choices, as they are discreet, make small clouds and can give high amounts of nicotine. Starter kits come with a range of flavours.

It’s important to choose an e-liquid with enough nicotine to reduce withdrawal symptoms and urges to smoke. You need to start at a nicotine level that matches your cigarette use – how frequently and how much you smoke. A specialist vape shop or your local Stop Smoking Service can advise you.

Whichever vape you choose, make sure you use it daily to help you make the switch from cigarettes.

Did you know?

Almost two-thirds of people who use a vape along with support from a local Stop Smoking Service successfully quit smoking.

Little research has been conducted into the safety of e-cigarettes in pregnancy, but they’re likely to be much less harmful to a pregnant woman and her baby than cigarettes.

If you’re pregnant, licensed NRT products such as patches and gum are the recommended option to help you stop smoking.

But if you find using an e-cigarette helpful for quitting and staying smokefree, it’s much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.

There have been instances of e-cigarettes exploding or catching fire.

As with all rechargeable electrical devices, the correct charger should be used and the device should not be left charging unattended or overnight.

The London Fire Brigade has produced safety advice for choosing and charging vapes

There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.

This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from tobacco, which is known to be extremely harmful to the health of both children and adults.

Visit our Smokefree families page to find out about the risks of secondhand tobacco smoke.

E-cigarettes are not currently available from the NHS on prescription, so you cannot get one from your GP.

You can buy them from specialist vape shops, some pharmacies and other retailers, or on the internet.

Vapes, including single-use “disposables”, are classed as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), meaning they should never be thrown away in general waste.

If vapes are put in the bin, the batteries can become damaged, causing fires in refuse vehicles or at waste management sites.

If discarded outdoors, over time they break down, releasing heavy metals and other pollutants into the environment.

You can take vapes for recycling to the shop where you buy your replacements or to your local authority household waste recycling centre.

Additional collection points are being added all the time, you can use your postcode to find your nearest vape recycling locations.

Vaping costs much less than smoking. Once you have bought the kit, it’s been estimated that vaping costs about a third as much as smoking.

How to quit vaping when you feel ready

Once you have been vaping for a while and feel sure you will not go back to smoking, you should aim to quit vaping too.

To keep yourself on track, it’s a good idea to quit vaping gradually. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • gradually reduce the strength of nicotine in your e-liquid (if you are using a disposable vape, you could switch to a refillable device to do this)
  • extend the time between vaping
  • set rules for yourself about where you do and do not vape, for example only outside of the home or only on breaks at work

Do not rush this process. Only reduce your vaping frequency or nicotine strength when you feel you will not go back to smoking and do not have to puff more to compensate. Your local Stop Smoking Service can give more advice on quitting vaping if you need it.

If at any point you feel at risk of going back to smoking, increase your nicotine strength or vaping frequency until the feelings go away.

If you prefer to stop vaping in one step, you can ask your pharmacist or stop smoking adviser about switching to a suitable nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product. This is an alternative way of cutting down your nicotine use until you are ready to stop completely.

Remember, if you have stopped smoking completely you have already achieved a huge step in protecting your health, so don’t worry if it takes you a while to stop vaping.

In this short film leading smoking researcher Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard carry out a demonstration to visually illustrate the impact of smoking vs vaping over a month.

Scientists in a laboratory

Vaping is now the most common way for smokers to cut down or quit completely. But there are so many myths and so much misleading information…visit the NHS Better Health website for all you need to know