Should I vape?

Vaping has basically become the new smoking. You’d be hard pressed to go somewhere in London without bumping into at least one of those little machines. Plus, they’ve made like a gabagillion (yes, that’s an accurate measurement) different flavours of smoke - now that’s the true measure of popularity. Seeing as everyone and their grandma seems to want a puff of vape, we thought we’d see what the hype is all about.

A young woman is sitting on a sofa with her phone in her hand. She is thinking about vaping. This is a wide-angle image.

What is vaping? 

It’s like smoking cigarettes. Only instead of inhaling smoke filled with cancerous toxins to get your nicotine hit, you inhale vapour through an e-cigarette (e-cig) or vapouriser (a battery-powered gadget that converts liquid nicotine into a vapor). Hence the name, vape.

Vaping products vary massively, but most contain three things: a battery, an atomiser, and a replaceable cartridge.

The cartridge contains varying levels of strength of e liquid (this can be anything from zero to a massive 36mg – basically a Benson & Hedges minus the filter) mixed with propylene glycol or glycerin (or both), water and sometimes flavourings. When you inhale, the liquid is heated up and turns it into water vapour. This vapour doesn’t have any tobacco smoke in it, but it does contain chemicals which can be harmful.

Vapes were originally designed to give you the look and feel of smoking and marketed as an aid to quitting smoking, but now non-smokers are taking up the habit.

Are electronic cigarettes and vapourisers addictive? 

Yes. While they’re probably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, the bottom line is most still deliver nicotine into your lungs – and nicotine is highly addictive.

Health officials actually  argue anything that contains nicotine should be treated with caution. Nicotine gives you a buzz and can make you feel more awake and positive. But when you try to withdraw it can lead to tiredness, irritability, hunger and cravings.

And equally addictive could be the habit itself. Some people find vaping so soothing and sociable that puffing out vape rings can be hard to give up. It’s truly like the habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, just without the nastier long term consequences. 

Is vaping better than smoking

Here’s where it all gets a bit confusing. Since vapourisers don’t contain all the dangerous carcinogenic chemicals found in cigarettes, they’re sold as a safer, cleaner alternative to smoking. However, this doesn’t mean vaping’s a harmless habit. They might not cause cancer, but they still contain chemicals and nicotine which can damage your body and cause addiction.

For example, some e-cigs have been found to contain diethylene glycol instead of propylene glycol (the main ingredient in antifreeze) and acetaldehyde (a probable carcinogen). One study even found much higher concentrations of formaldehyde (the stuff used to treat warts and verrucas) in e-cigs than regular cigarettes.

How much nicotine am I taking in when I vape?

Unlike smoking, you can vape anytime, anywhere, allowing you to constantly inhale nicotine. So if you’re wondering ‘is vaping better than smoking?’ it’s definitely more convenient. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Our bodies quickly adapt to want more and more, and if you’re using a vape with a lot of nicotine in it, you could easily find yourself sucking on the equivalent of a packet of fags a day.

However, vaping hasn’t yet been linked to cancer or heart disease in the way cigarettes are. Most studies to date conclude that the only health risk of vaping is a dry throat and increased dehydration.

Will vape help me to quit smoking? 

The idea of e-cigarettes is to reproduce the smoking experience as closely as possible with enough of a nicotine hit to stave off craving a cigarette. So if you  find it hard to give up the physical act of smoking, then yes, they will help. Just keep in mind, they won’t be available through the NHS, so you’ll have to buy them from your local shops. What the NHS do provide are stop smoking services that might be able to help – free of charge.

To find out more about quitting smoking, click here. 

Can I vape in public? 

Common sense prevails here, but as a guideline here’s where you can and cannot vape:

  • Yes: most nightclubs, vape bars, and some cafes.
  • Maybe: restaurants (but check first), offices (but this largely depends on whether your boss vapes or not), some public transport.
  • No: Cinemas, theatres, airports – not inside or on a plane, museums or exhibitions. 

Bottom line is just don’t be a prick about it. If there are kids around, try not to do it and even if there aren’t, be mindful of your surroundings. To be honest, there aren’t many restrictions around vaping besides being over-18 and warning labels on packets. So, it’s up to you to be responsible for your actions. 

Is vaping cheaper than smoking?  

Like cigarettes, the cost of vaping will depend on your kit and usage.

You can buy the basic cigarette look-alike starter kit for around £8, the equivalent of 80 cigarettes. Then all you have to buy are refills or cartridges, which typically cost around 80p each. Or, if you’ve got cash to splash, you can go all out for a futuristic vapouriser complete with coded indestructible box and fancy accessories.

But, when you consider a pack of Malborough Lights cost nearly £9 for a pack of 20 that makes basic vape kits significantly cheaper than smoking.

Next Steps

  • NHS Smokefree offers all sorts of advice and support to help you quit smoking.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 29-Sep-2015