Vaping quiz - test your knowledge

There are lots of different opinions and beliefs about vaping. Some say it’s as bad as smoking, others say it helps with quitting smoking. It’s actually somewhere in the middle: vaping is not advised for non-smokers, but it does help smokers quit.

How is vaping different to smoking?

Smoking Tobacco E Cigarette. Holding Tobacco Vape

Vaping is different to smoking, which burns tobacco leaf creating smoke. There are two types of vape devices or e-cigarettes both of which need charging:

  • Discreet pod or pen devices are mouth-to-lung devices. Pod devices have a battery and a disposable e-liquid cartridge. Pen devices have a battery, a tank that refills with liquid, and a coil that heats the vapour.
  • More complex tank devices are direct-to-lung devices and are the ones that can make big clouds.

Vaping, like smoking can deliver nicotine. It is the burning of tobacco by smoking that causes most of the health harms which is why smokers are advised to switch to vaping or nicotine gum or patches.

What’s in vape liquid?

The vaping liquid (also called e-liquid) normally contains propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, plus flavours and the option of nicotine.

  • Propylene glycol creates a throat sensation similar to smoking.
  • A higher ratio vegetable glycerine gives more vapour.
  • Different flavours are added for personal preference and flavours must be water-soluble.
Heated tobacco or heat-not-burn devices

The latest alternative nicotine delivery systems are called “Heat-not-Burn” or ‘heated tobacco’ products. They use electronic delivery devices but contain tobacco leaf and heat a small plug of tobacco without setting it alight, producing an inhalable vapour. Because the device heats rather than burns tobacco, they produce fewer toxins than normal cigarettes. However, little is known about the health effects yet, so there could be long term health concerns.

What types of e-cigarettes are there?
Types of e-cigarette, types of vape device
Why is nicotine in vapes?

Lots of vapes DON’T contain nicotine, but products can vary from no nicotine to high nicotine

Vaping can help smokers quit by delivering nicotine, and although it is addictive, it’s the toxins produced by burning tobacco that cause smoking related illnesses. Many people miss the nicotine when they quit smoking, and can experience a range of withdrawal symptoms, which can make quitting difficult. Vaping can replace this nicotine but without the toxins found in cigarette smoke. Vaping is a lot less harmful than smoking for smokers. But it is only advised that people vape as an aid to quit smoking.

If someone doesn’t smoke, and regularly uses a nicotine vape they should know that nicotine is addictive. This can make people feel irritable, restless, unable to concentrate, and most people experience cravings when they go without it. Having more takes away these symptoms, and this can keep someone stuck in a cycle of use.

What does nicotine do?

Nicotine is addictive because it affects part of the brain that is involved in ‘rewarding behaviour’. Excessive nicotine can have side effects, like nausea and vomiting. Smokers have become used to these types of effects. However, non-smokers who get exposed to nicotine could experience this.

CBD and THC cannabis vapes

Some vaping products are marketed as containing CBD or illicit THC, especially those marketed on social media platforms. Testing of these products has shown many are made with synthetic cannabis (Spice) or fentanyl both of which are highly dangerous. Tests of vaping products in shops in the UK by trading standards showed that a quarter of all the vaping products on sale didn’t meet UK standards and should not be on sale.

Vaping illicit substances, such as ‘spice’ or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), or black-market e-liquids, carry unknown risks. THC containing e-cigarette products are linked to most hospitalisations for vaping. They played a major role in the outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the US in 2019.

How to spot a legal vape
Side effects of vaping

Breathing any product into the lungs unnecessarily is not ideal, and that’s why non-smokers should not vape. However, for those who smoke, switching to vaping is likely to substantially reduce health risks.

There can be side effects to vaping. These can depend on how much someone vapes, whether it contains nicotine and at what dose, or what other contents are in the vape (such as CBD or THC) and what style e-liquid is chosen.

The most common side effects of vaping include:

  • coughing
  • dry mouth and throat
  • shortness of breath
  • mouth and throat irritation
  • headaches.
  • nausea

These side effects are associated with inhaling the vapour and are also associated with smoking.

Long-term, there may be risks associated with vaping long-term however these are not yet known.

Regarding safety, categorical statements about the toxicity of electronic cigarettes are not possible because of the large number of devices and fluids available and the frequent addition of new products to the market.

Where to go for more information

NHS – Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking