Once again I find myself addressing fact versus fiction surrounding vaping / e-cigarettes.

Vaping is worse than smoking tobacco?

Doing a quick Google search will bring up all sorts of conflicting opinions, the most negative on American and Canadian websites.

I will be using the following sources for my information;

  • NHS Smoke-Free
  • UK Government
  • Public Health England
  • Cancer Research UK
  • The British Heart Foundation
  • The British Lung Foundation
  • ASH (Action on Smoking & Health)
  • Cochrane review
  • Royal College of Physicians
  • VAEP.info

So here goes;

Is vaping harmful?

Experts agree vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking but it is not risk-free. Vaping exposes users to fewer toxins and at lower levels than smoking cigarettes.

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.

Cancer Research
Cancer Research

Vaping is not completely risk-free, but it poses a small fraction of the risk of smoking cigarettes. The long-term risks of vaping are not yet clear. E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.

Is smoking harmful?

Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK.

Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses.

Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions.

Some may be fatal, and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health.

Smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer (70%).

It also causes cancer in many other parts of the body, including the:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • voice box (larynx)
  • oesophagus (the tube between your mouth and stomach)
  • bladder
  • bowel
  • cervix
  • kidney
  • liver
  • stomach
  • pancreas

Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as:

  • coronary heart disease
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels)
  • cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain)

Smoking also damages your lungs, leading to conditions such as:

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which incorporates bronchitis and emphysema
  • pneumonia
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Smoking can also worsen or prolong the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.

Is nicotine harmful?

Nicotine is harmful in cigarettes largely because it is combined with other damaging chemicals such as tar and arsenic, and as a highly addictive substance getting hooked on nicotine is one of the prime reasons why people become dependent on cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes and Nicotine Replacement Therapy (gum, lozenges, and patches) contain nicotine but don’t contain the harmful substances found in cigarettes.

Alarmingly RSPH research reveals that 90% of the public still regard nicotine itself as harmful and the organisation is now calling for measures to promote safer forms of nicotine products to smokers and make it harder to use tobacco.

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.

How many people die from smoking in the UK?

Every year around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses. Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions.

Cancer Research Smoking
Cancer Research Smoking
How many people die from e-cigarettes in the UK?

Between 20 May 2016 (implementation of TRPR) and 9 January 2020, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had received 84 reports of 245 adverse reactions believed to be associated with nicotine-containing vaping products through its Yellow Card Scheme. A report is not proof that the reaction was caused by a vaping product, just that the reporter suspected it might have been.


In the US, where there is a very different regulatory system for vaping products (including products used to vape cannabis), there was a spate of serious lung diseases and deaths which appeared to peak in late 2019. This outbreak seems to have been caused by people vaping the cannabis derivative tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil and vitamin E acetate.

What does the CDC America say about vaping?

What are the dangers of vaping according to the CDC?

  • Asthma. Vaping can make you more likely to get asthma and other lung conditions.
  • Lung scarring.
  • Organ damage.
  • EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury)
  • Addiction.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Second-hand exposure.
  •  Explosions.
Excuse me for laughing!
What does Public Health England say about vaping?

Biomarkers of potential harm are measurements of biological changes in the body due to an exposure to smoking or vaping. Although this review looked at many studies of biomarkers of potential harm, the team could draw only limited conclusions. However, better-run studies assessing short and medium term risks, found no major causes of concern associated with vaping.

Public Health England
Public Health England

The latest data from several national studies of adults in England shows that:

  • smoking prevalence in England in 2021 was between 12.7% and 14.9% depending on the survey, which equates to between 5.6 and 6.6 million adults who smoke 
  • vaping prevalence in England in 2021 was between 6.9% and 7.1%, depending on the survey, which equates to between 3.1 and 3.2 million adults who vape
  • vaping prevalence among adults who have never smoked remained very low, at between 0.6% and 0.7% in 2021
  • the popularity of disposable vaping products has increased among adults who vape, with 15.2% using them in 2022 compared with 2.2% in 2021
  • tank type products remained the most popular vaping devices (used by 64.3% of adult vapers in 2022)
  • vaping products remain the most common aid used by people to help them stop smoking
  • in stop smoking services in 2020 to 2021, quit attempts involving a vaping product were associated with the highest success rates (64.9% compared with 58.6% for attempts not involving a vaping product)
  • the stop smoking service data are consistent with the latest evidence from the Cochrane living systematic review on electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation which also shows vaping is effective for stopping smoking

What about lung damage?

Smoking is the main cause of COPD and is thought to be responsible for around 9 in every 10 cases. The harmful chemicals in smoke can damage the lining of the lungs and airways. Stopping smoking can help prevent COPD from getting worse.

vaping and smoking lungs
vaping and smoking lungs

Giving up smoking cigarettes is the best thing you can do for your lung health.

But with lots of different information in the news, some people have found it tricky to decide if e-cigarettes are a safe way to help them quit. In fact, we’ve found out that people who currently smoke tobacco are likely to think that e-cigarettes are harmful.

That’s why Public Health England’s new report is so important, as it confirms what we already know – that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

Experts have reviewed all the research done on e-cigarettes over the past few years, and found no significant risks for people using e-cigarettes.

Vaping when you have a lung condition

If you already have a lung condition, Public Health England’s report suggests it’s fine to quit using an e-cigarette too. Swapping cigarettes for an e-cig can improve your symptoms of lung conditions like asthma and COPD.

British Lung Foundation
British Lung Foundation

Can you see the difference in attitudes and opinions regarding vaping?

Who do you believe?

As someone who has had COPD for 10 years and switched to e-cigarettes a year ago, I have had no flare-ups and my oxygen levels have increased.

Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts.

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