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Vaping & E-Cigarettes

According to the Office of National Statistics, from 2014-2016, there's an estimated 2.9 million adults (16 years and older) in Great Britain using e-cigarettes. But how are they different from tobacco cigarettes?

The name “vaping” comes from “vapour”.

What is it?

Vaping is what we call smoking an e-cigarette. E-cigarettes are an alternative to normal cigarettes which allow you to inhale nicotine but without most of the harmful effects of smoking.

Why are they smoke-free?

E-cigarettes don't have any smoke because they don't actually do any burning. Instead, they work by creating vapour by heating up a nicotine solution (which usually also contains flavourings). The name “vaping” comes from “vapour”.

Are they safe?

Vaping does come with some risks, but current studies suggest that you have a much lower chance of seriously damaging your health by smoking e-cigarettes than by smoking cigarettes.

According to NHS Livewell’s site, e-cigarettes "do not produce tar and carbon monoxide" and "according to current evidence on e-cigarettes, they carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes."

It adds: "They have been found to contain some potentially harmful chemicals, but at much lower levels than regular cigarettes."

E-cigarettes are fairly new, so we are only just starting to understand their health risks. The governing body Public Health England will monitor evidence about the effects of e-cigarettes it develops over the coming years.

If you think you’ve experienced a health problem caused by your e-cigarette or you have experienced a safety concern or product defect, you can report it through the Yellow Card Scheme. The Yellow Card Scheme is helping the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to monitor the safety of e-cigarettes in the UK.

Should I switch to e-cigarettes?

If you smoke, then the best thing you can do for your long-term health is to quit smoking altogether. If you're still struggling, the NHS has some good advice on how to quit: They state that different things work for different people and, if you've already tried other methods of quitting smoking without success, you might want to give e-cigarettes a go.

However, e-cigarettes are not currently available through the NHS on prescription.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.

This factfile was updated on 15 May 2018