Vaping and e-cigarettes

Find out what vaping is, how e-cigarettes might be able to help you quit smoking, and what e-cigarettes do to your lungs.

What is vaping?

Vaping is using an e-cigarette to inhale vapour, rather than smoke. This vapour often contains nicotine. E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco or produce smoke. This means they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke.

E-cigarettes have become a popular tool to help people quit smoking. E-cigarettes are not currently licensed as medicines, though this may happen in the future. However, stop smoking services will support you if you use them to quit smoking.

Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking

E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking tobacco and are effective as a tool to help people who smoke to quit smoking. However, they are not risk free, and more evidence is needed to understand the long-term risks. 

Recent research has found that vaping instead of smoking tobacco leads to a lot less exposure to toxins that cause cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular disease.

There is also good evidence that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking and that they are slightly more effective than traditional NRT products. Stop smoking services should support people who want to quit this way.

Millions of people in the UK have successfully stopped smoking with the help of e-cigarettes. Your GP or stop smoking advisor should be able to advise you on how to use an e-cigarette to stop smoking, and how you can use them with other support to improve your chances of stopping smoking.

Watch this video from the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT), which discusses e-cigarettes and how they can be used to stop smoking.

E-cigarettes and your lungs

E-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco, but they’re not risk-free. More research is needed on how long-term vaping can affect your lungs and overall health.

We know that vaping can cause inflammation in the airways, which might cause harm over time. We don’t recommend that anyone uses e-cigarettes unless they are trying to stop smoking.

If you have a long-term lung condition, it’s a good idea to stop vaping eventually. But it’s important to not give up vaping before you’re ready, as this could cause you to start smoking again. Many of the same techniques used to quit tobacco smoking can be used to quit vaping, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). 

Some people with asthma tell us that the vape from e-cigarettes triggers their symptoms. Speak to your GP or nurse if this is the case. 

What about second-hand vapour?

There’s not a lot of evidence about whether second-hand vapour from e-cigarettes is harmful. 

People with asthma have told us it can irritate their airways. However, some studies suggest short-term exposure to second-hand vapour is not harmful. More research is needed for us to know if second-hand vapour is harmful or not.

People with a lung condition may be sensitive to the vapour from e-cigarettes. This is similar to the way lung symptoms can be set off by things like cold weather, dust, or pollen. It’s important to be aware of what can set off your symptoms, so you know how to reduce your risk of having an asthma attack or flare-up. 

E-cigarettes and home oxygen therapy

If you have low blood oxygen levels, you may benefit from home oxygen therapy. At your oxygen assessment, you’ll be asked if you smoke and offered advice and treatment to quit. This is because smoking while using oxygen therapy is very dangerous.

E-cigarettes should not be used when using home oxygen therapy. If you are a long-term vaper, you may not be prescribed home oxygen therapy, as it is a fire risk to yourself and others.

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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