Health advice

What is vaping?

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Vaping is breathing in the vapour produced by an e-cigarette. Learn about the way it works as well as its risks and benefits.
What is vaping?

Vaping is a term used to describe the use of e-cigarettes (electronic devices that release nicotine in vapour, not smoke). Other words used to describe e-cigarettes include vapes and e-cigs. Vaping is a relatively new way to quit smoking.1,2

An e-cigarette works by heating liquid containing nicotine, creating vapour that people inhale. It can be helpful for people trying to quit smoking. It is not recommended that non-smokers start vaping. This is because nicotine is still highly addictive and we still don’t know the long-term effects of vaping. 2

How can vaping help me quit smoking?

Nicotine is what makes tobacco addictive. E-cigarette vapour and tobacco smoke both contain nicotine, but cigarettes also contain tar, carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals are what cause the health complications associated with smoking.1

If you are struggling to quit smoking, vaping is an alternative you might want to consider. This does not mean vaping is healthy or risk-free.1

It is important to know that currently, e-cigarettes are not a licensed stop smoking medicine and are not available on the NHS. You can buy e-cigarettes from vaping shops and some pharmacies.1

How do I know which e-cigarette is best for me?

E-cigarettes are designed so you can inhale different levels of nicotine. It is important to match the level of nicotine to your cigarette use to start off with.1

There are different types of e-cigarettes you can use. These are called vape bars, pod devices or vape pens.1

Your local stop smoking service can advise you on the correct level of nicotine you should be using for your e-cigarette.1

Is vaping bad for my health?

Vaping is relatively new. Because of this, there isn’t enough research to know the full impact it can have on your body. In the short term, it does not appear to present a serious health risk. But we cannot say what the long-term effects are, because it hasn’t been around long enough to know.2

Although nicotine is addictive, using e-cigarettes is far less harmful than smoking tobacco-containing cigarettes.

E-cigarettes may cause side effects, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Throat irritation
  • Coughs.2
  • Can I vape if I have never smoked?

    Because of the addictive nature of e-cigarettes and the potentially harmful substances in e-cigarettes, you should not start vaping if you are not using it to quit smoking.3

    Much more research needs to be done to know the full impact vaping may have on your heart and circulation.3

    Visit your nearest pharmacy

    Get support and advice from your local Well pharmacist

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    Where can I go for further advice and information?

    The British Heart Foundation (BHF)

    The BHF has information and support on using e-cigarettes and vaping.


    The NHS has information on smoking, using e-cigarettes to quit smoking and additional advice and support.

    1. Vaping to quit smoking - Better Health. Published September 20, 2022. Accessed July 24, 2023.
    2. Is vaping harmful? Cancer Research UK. Published December 28, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2023.
    3. Is vaping safe? Accessed July 24, 2023.

    Published: 18 October 2023

    Next review: 18 October 2026

    Reviewer: Connie Whewall

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