All recent studies point to the fact that vaping is better than smoking. With Public Health England stating that electronic cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking and Cancer Research UK supporting vaping in the fight against smoking relating diseases.

In 2015, e-cigarettes in the UK helped 49 people a day stop smoking. Yet this is THE question, isn’t it? A constant topic of debate for the media and regulatory bodies, is vaping safer than smoking?

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Sterling (Scotland) has been vocal regarding the impact of negative headlines and the impact they have on the vaping industry. She said;

“Since I last wrote about e-cigarettes in this column one year ago, headlines about the dangers of these devices have continued to appear and show no sign of abating. The result is clear. More people believe today, compared with a year ago, that e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking. In fact, these incorrect perceptions have risen year on year.

With the headlines set to continue into 2017, coupled with new WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines that look at severely limiting or banning the sale of e-cigarettes in certain countries, public opinion looks set to be at an all-time low.”

So let’s look towards reputable sources to help us look past the anti-vaping agenda and answer this question. Cancer Research UK has spoken out in the past, talking about the benefits of vaping over smoking. Let’s revisit some of the top articles to help us answer this question.


We’re all familiar about the role cigarettes play in causing cancer, which is why the usage of such products is frowned upon. However, cigarette usage is addictive and breaking free of the addiction is incredibly challenging. Many smokers manage to overcome their addiction by turning to e-cigarettes instead since these still offer a nicotine hit without the damaging effects of tobacco and tar. This method of overcoming, or reducing, a nicotine addiction is even supported by Cancer Research UK, who state that e-cigs ‘help people quit smoking‘.

E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, which is why learning how to regulate them is important to those institutions that focus on the health of the public. In a bid to find out more about the usage and effects of e-cigarettes, Cancer Research UK-funded scientists discovered that those individuals who swapped regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes for at least six months had significantly lower levels of toxic and cancer-causing substances in their body than those individuals who continued to use conventional cigarettes. The study also showed that a complete switchover was necessary, rather than continuing to smoke to a lesser degree while using e-cigarettes.

These findings indicate that the use of e-cigarettes in place of regular cigarettes means the user isn’t exposed to the chemicals and toxins that they would otherwise be exposed to, and which can lead to the development of certain strains of cancer. Obviously reducing the general public’s exposure to products that can lead to cancer is incredibly important, which is why this finding is so interesting.

Cancer Research UK has a balanced approach towards products such as e-cigarettes, citing their usefulness in helping people to quit smoking, which also goes a long way to reducing the risk of cancers associated with the use of tobacco products. Their stance towards e-cigarettes is that there should be sufficient regulation surrounding the distribution of vaping items, to make sure the idea of vaping is not presented as an attractive activity to children, and to stop them from being sold to children. The charity also states that they ‘do not believe there is enough evidence to justify an indoor ban on e-cigarettes.’

The fact that the charity’s findings discovered e-cigarettes to be an aid in the drop in toxins for users who transitioned from cigarettes is fantastic news. Cancer Research UK’s stance towards the use of e-cigarettes is that they are useful in harm reduction terms, which is a health policy that aims to reduce the harmful consequences without necessarily blocking the use of the items causing the harm. Though inhaling air is obviously healthier than vaping, vaping is a much healthier alternative than the dreaded smoking.

As Alyssa Best, a policy adviser at Cancer Research UK says, ‘The evidence is showing e-cigarettes can help beat the tobacco epidemic. And when they have the potential to save millions of lives, should we just sit back and wait?’



Following the release of their study findings, Cancer Research UK released a set of FAQ’s that addressed the questions people often ask relating to electronic cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking?

Yes. Based on what experts know so far, they think that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking. Vaping has not been associated with any serious health risks, whereas smoking is associated with a high number of very serious health risks to both the smoker and to others around them. So switching from traditional tobacco to vaping e-cigarettes can substantially reduce these major health risks.

Is nicotine dangerous?

There are many people who still believe it’s the nicotine in cigarettes that causes lung cancer and the many other smoking-related diseases. Nicotine doesn’t cause smoking-related diseases, such as cancers and heart disease, but it is addictive. Of the three main causes of death from smoking, lung cancer arises from direct exposure of the lungs to the carcinogens in tobacco smoke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from the irritant effects of smoke, and cardiovascular disease from the effects of smoke on blood vessel walls. There is also a common misconception that you can overdose on nicotine using e-cigarettes. Although pure nicotine is a toxic compound to be handled with caution, nicotine from tobacco, nicotine replacement therapies (NRT patches, gums, sprays), and e-liquids is consumed by millions of people per day, and any reported poisoning is exceptionally rare. Overdosing on nicotine products used as directed is almost impossible, given the ability of the user to titrate dose and the short half-life of nicotine (i.e. nicotine is quickly metabolized and cleared from the body, hence the urge of a smoker to light up a cigarette first thing in the morning).

Much the same as with Nicotine Replacement Therapy, if you do have more nicotine than you’re used to, then you might feel a little nauseous or lightheaded, both of which pass quickly. If this happens, just reduce the level of nicotine in the e-liquid that you buy, or use the e-cigarette less.

Do e-cigarettes produce harmful chemicals or blow up?

Some studies have found chemicals in e-cigarette vapour that are known to cause health problems. But these studies have tended to use artificial conditions, and when good quality e-cigarettes are used normally (e.g. not overheated), there are far fewer harmful chemicals present in the vapour than in tobacco smoke. If the e-liquid is being overheated it tends to produce an acrid, unpleasant taste – you’ll know if this happens.

The media likes to cause a fuss about exploding e-cigs and house fires caused by vaping. The main culprit? Using the wrong charger. Always use the RIGHT charger for your device. This is really important. There is a chance we have become blasé about batteries and chargers believing that because we have excellent standards here in the UK no poor quality equipment can get in? This is wrong, poor quality products do enter the UK market and you can find them via non-reputable stockists, not all chargers are made equal. And yes, even good quality products can go wrong. Always buy the best you can afford and that generally means going to a vendor that sells quality or manufactures their own products.

Is it ok to smoke and vape at the same time?

All studies to date have shown no evidence that vaping and smoking at the same time is no worse for you than just smoking tobacco. But the main goal should always be to stop smoking traditional tobacco altogether, this is where you will see the best health benefits. Some people can stop smoking the moment they pick up an e-cigarette, but if you don't you don't need to be hard on yourself, some people find it much easier to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes a day, take your time trying e-cigarettes and e-liquid to get your best match.

Can I use an e-cigarette in the Stop Smoking Services?

Yes, no matter what smoking cessation product you choose your local Stop Smoking Services will still support you, this includes if you choose an electronic cigarette. Stop Smoking Services are still the most effective way to quit for good, with trained stop smoking practitioners providing behavioural support, advice on what might be the best way for you to stop and access to approved stop smoking medications.

Which e-cigarette should I start with?

There are many different types of electronic cigarettes on the market and getting the right one is largely down to personal choice. There are 'cig-a-likes', which look very much like a regular cigarette and tend to be only tobacco and menthol flavours and set strengths. Most other e-cigs tend to be refillable and have a much wider choice of style, e-liquid strength and flavour. The easiest way to select your first e-cigarette is to choose a reputable company and visit their store where their staff will be able to offer the best advice and in most cases let you try the products before you buy them.

The strength of the e-liquid is the measure of how much, as a proportion, of the e-liquid, contains nicotine. It is measured either as mg/ml or as a %. These are essentially "equivalent" such that if a fluid is marked as strength 18mg/ml it is equivalent to 1.8%. Normally, the strength you choose is associated to the type and number of conventional cigarettes you use, as a general guide most 20 a day smokers find 1.8% nicotine strength to be a good starting point.

How should I use my e-cigarette to help me to stop smoking?

Vaping is actually vastly different to smoking. You need to take long slow draws, rather than short sharp puffs, this gives your e-cig time to heat up your e-liquid and vapourise it properly. When smoking you would normally light a cigarette and smoke it from start to finish, using an e-cig means that you can put it down after a few draws and feel satisfied. If you are never feeling satisfied you might need to increase your nicotine strength.

Coughing or having a slight tickle when making the switch is not unusual, remember to pick a reputable retailer who can offer the best advice and support.

Will e-cigarettes be cheaper for me than smoking?

Going off the average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes, you can save over £3200 a year when you make the switch to vaping. Yes, there are some running costs with your e-cigarette as you will need to buy e-liquid, atomizer heads and other accessories, but these are minuscule in comparison.

Can I use my e-cigarettes in places where I can’t smoke?

While there are no laws that restrict where you can vape, there are company policies in place at some locations. Airports, shops, sports stadiums and hospitals are a few examples. Be respectful and use common sense; don't vape where you wouldn't have smoked before and always ask first.

Is second-hand vapour from e-cigarettes dangerous? How can I protect my children?

Though studies are still ongoing on this topic, those that have been done so far strongly indicate that passive vaping poses little danger, if any. In fact, what they have managed to show thus far is that passive vaping is a non-existent problem, with no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analysed.’

Use common sense, keep e-liquids and electronic cigarettes out of the reach of children. Try to minimise the amount you are vaping around children and do not use an e-cig in a confined space with them.

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