This site is intended for healthcare professionals

Ep 51 – E-cigarettes and vaping


Posted 28 Jul 2022

Dr Roger Henderson

Using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), or ‘vaping’, has become the most popular form of nicotine replacement therapy in the UK. In this podcast episode, Dr Roger Henderson looks at why this is, the benefits to smokers, and whether we should be recommending such products to our patients who smoke. He also talks about current concerns over their increasing popularity in adolescents and what their potential long-term risks may be.


Key references discussed in the episode:

  1. Action on Smoking and Health. Fears of growth in children vaping disposables backed up by new national survey. 7 July 2022.
  2. Action on Smoking and Health. Facts at a glance. April 2021.
  3. NICE CKS. Smoking cessation. September 2021.
  4. NICE. Recommendations on treating tobacco dependence. In: Tobacco: preventing uptake, promoting quitting and treating dependence (NG209). 30 November 2021.
  5. Cancer Research UK. RCGP and CRUK joint position statement on e-cigarettes. 8 July 2020.

Key take-home points:

  • Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable death and ill health in the UK with over 80,000 smokers dying from their habit annually.
  • One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related illness, and for every death caused by smoking, 20 smokers will suffer from a smoking-related disease.
  • Every cigarette smoked takes around 11 minutes off a smoker’s life,
  • NICE has said that licensed nicotine-containing products are an effective way of reducing the harm from tobacco for both the person smoking and those around them.
  • E-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of conventional cigarettes, whose main harm comes not from the nicotine they contain but from the toxins and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
  • Public perception on e-cigarettes is often incorrect, with many people believing that these are as harmful as (or even more harmful than) traditional cigarettes.
  • Many ingredients found in vaping products have been shown to be safe when given orally, but absorption and metabolism mechanisms differ when inhaled.
  • In the UK, vaping among children aged 11–17 is up from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022.
  • It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, but the most common source of supply for underage vapers continues to be shops.
  • Unlicensed black market vaping products are widely available to the retail sector and members of the public.
  • Current NICE advice is that we should tell people who smoke that a range of interventions is available to help them stop smoking.
  • This includes behavioural interventions, medication such as bupropion and varenicline, and nicotine replacement treatments including nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.
  • The best smoker is unequivocally a quit smoker, free from all tobacco- or nicotine-containing products.

Create an account to add page annotations

Add information to this page that would be handy to have on hand during a consultation, such as a web address or phone number. This information will always be displayed when you visit this page