E-cigarettes and vapes

E-cigarettes, ecigs and vapes mean all work in the same way with the main differences being that e-cigarettes look like a cigarette as they are long, thin, cylindrical with a light at the end and vapes come in various shapes and sizes but all work in the same way. For ease, we will refer to them all as vapes in this article.

Over recent years, Vapes have become very popular. They are now the most popular way to stop smoking.

A vape is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking. Tobacco, smoked in cigarettes, roll ups and pipes also delivers nicotine but with thousands of harmful chemicals. On its own, nicotine is relatively harmless.


Vapes work by heating and creating a vapour from a solution that typically contains nicotine; a thick, colourless liquid called propylene glycol and/or glycerine; and flavourings.

Vapes generally consist of a battery, a heating element or coil (atomiser) and vape liquid (e-liquid). The e-liquid can be in sealed cartridges or added to a tank system.

As there’s no burning involved, there’s no smoke and therefore vapes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide, two of the main poisons in cigarette smoke.

Research shows that vapes can help you give up smoking. If you want to use a vape to help you quit, you’ll give yourself the best chance if you also get expert support from a smokefree advisor. We can prescribe NRT to use alongside a vape.

Different things work for different people and, particularly if you have already tried other methods of quitting smoking without success, you might want to give vaping a go.

The vapour from vapes has been found to contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

According to current evidence, they carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes. Public Health England estimate they are 95% safer than smoking tobacco.

There are no vapes currently available on prescription. For now, if you want to use a vape to help you quit, you’ll have to buy one, although our support is still available for free. Costs of vapes can vary, but generally they’re much cheaper than cigarettes.

We’ve included some FAQs below about vapes and vaping.


How do I know if my vape/e-cig is compliant? 

If you are looking to purchase a vape or already own one, you can check whether a vaping product is compliant with legislation, and whether it can be legally sold in the UK by checking The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Search for your your vaping product here:  MHRA 

Is nicotine dangerous?

Nicotine does not cause smoking related disease, such as cancers and heart disease. These are caused by other chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Nicotine is addictive however and it is why people continue to smoke despite knowing about the harmful effects of tobacco. Nicotine in vapes poses little danger to adult users. To prevent accidental poisoning of children, vapes and liquids should be stored away safely (just as you would with household cleaning products and medicines, including NRT products).


Which vape should I start with?

This is very much a personal choice. The refillable tank system vapes might take a bit of getting used to, but they allow the use of more flavours and a better sensation, and generally deliver more nicotine than vapes that look like cigarettes. Specialist vape retailers can provide advice and there are also internet forums where vape users discuss the different product types.


How often should vapes be used to help me stop smoking?

As often as you need to help manage nicotine withdrawal and urges to smoke. You will soon discover the best way for you of how to use your vape and find that you’re using it when you feel a need to ‘top-up’. It’s not like a cigarette, which you would smoke from start to finish, with an vape you can ‘sip’ on it once or twice, and then put it away. If you find you’ve got it in your mouth all the time, you might need to use a stronger e-liquid.

How much do vapes cost?

You can expect to pay around £20 for a good quality, and easy to use, refillable starter kit. More advanced vapes for the adventurous or experienced user can range from £30 to several hundred pounds, although a decent experienced user kit can be bought for about £70. As with other consumables, you will need to pay more for better quality products.


Will vapes be cheaper for me than smoking?

Yes. Once you have chosen your starter kit then you only need to replace the atomiser (heating coil or ‘head’) for a couple of pounds and purchase your e-liquid which can start at £3 for 10 ml. You will notice savings very quickly compared with buying cigarettes.


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

Yes. There is no evidence that smoking cigarettes and vaping at the same time increases health risks. However, the greatest health benefits are seen when people stop smoking tobacco completely, so quitting smoking should be the goal. Stop smoking services can provide advice and support to help you reach this goal.

Some people manage to switch completely to vaping quickly, whilst others take a little time. You may have to try several different vapes and e-liquids before you find the one that enables you to stop smoking completely, but this is quite normal.


Are vapes smoked in same way as cigarettes?

Using a vape is different to smoking a cigarette. This usually involves taking slower and longer puffs over a longer period; this is because vapes heat a coil in a liquid (think of a kettle). You may feel the need to take a few puffs on an vape at times when you would not have smoked; this is nothing to worry about and your pattern of vape use will develop over time.

When does the vape atomiser need changing?

The life of your atomiser (heating coil) will depend on how much you use your vape and the quality of your device; typically it should last up to two weeks, but it could be a lot longer than this. Low vapour production, a ‘burnt’ taste or poor / reduced flavour are signs that your atomiser needs to be replaced.


What nicotine strength e-liquid should I go for?

How much nicotine you require will depend upon how much nicotine you are getting from your cigarettes. And of course, how much nicotine you get from your e-liquid will depend upon the type of vape that you use and how you use it. As a rough guide, most 20-a-day smokers find that 18mg/ml (1.8%) is sufficient, so you could start with this and see how you get on.


How many bottles of e-liquid will I need in a week?

As a rough guide, for a 20-a-day smoker two 10ml bottles of 18mg/ml e-liquid will usually last a week. However, this will depend on the quality of your vape and your puffing technique; with better devices and experience, e-liquid use will often reduce. You’ll soon get to know how much you need.


How do I choose a flavour?

This is a personal choice. Some people start with tobacco flavour, or menthol flavour if they smoke mentholated cigarettes, but one of the advantages of vapes is that you can experiment and try new flavours. People usually try a few different flavours until they find the one that suits them. Some people choose to move away completely from tobacco flavours, preferring sweet and fruit flavours for example.


Are vapes dangerous, do they blow up or catch fire?

As with any rechargeable device, like mobile phones and laptops, it is important to charge with the correct charger and not to leave a vape unattended whilst charging. Ensure that you buy from reputable suppliers and avoid generic charging equipment. There have been reported cases of vapes causing fires at a rate of around two per week in the UK, this is far fewer than the number of fires caused by cigarettes.

Can vapes lead to using more nicotine and overdosing?

This is a common misconception around vapes. As with NRT, if you have more nicotine than you are used to then you might feel a little nauseous or lightheaded, both of which pass quickly. If this happens you can just reduce the level of nicotine in the e-liquid that you buy or use the vape less. You are in no danger of poisoning yourself and there have been no cases of overdose from inhaling e-liquid.


Are vapes safer for me than smoking?

Yes. Experts estimate that vapes are, based on what we know so far, around 95% safer than cigarettes. Smoking is associated with several very serious health risks to both the smoker and to others around them. Therefore, smokers who switch from smoking tobacco to vapes substantially reduce a major risk to their health.


Is it true that vapes can produce harmful chemicals?

Some studies have detected chemicals in vape vapour that are known to cause health problems. However, these chemicals have been found at very low levels that are unlikely to represent a serious risk to health. When vapes are used within normal operating levels (e.g., not overheated), there are far fewer harmful chemicals present in their vapour than in tobacco smoke. If the e-liquid is being overheated it tends to produce an acrid, unpleasant taste – you will know if this happens!


Why do I get a bit of a cough when I use my vape?

This isn’t unusual and you may benefit from switching from an e-liquid with a high- proportion of propylene glycol to one with more vegetable glycol, which can be more soothing.


Is second-hand vapour from vapes dangerous?

Some studies have found traces of toxicants in second-hand vapour, but at such low levels that they do not pose a health risk to bystanders. There is no evidence that second-hand vapour is dangerous to others; however, it helps to be respectful when using vapes around others, especially non-smokers.


Are vapes safe to use during pregnancy?

Vapes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide, two of the main toxins in cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide is particularly harmful to developing babies. The vapour from an vape does contain some of the potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

Vapes are still new and there are still some things we don’t know. However, current evidence indicates they are much less risky than smoking. If using a vape helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke.