Quite a stir was caused when the Oxford English Dictionary named “vaping” as its word of the year in 2014.

Usually new words don’t get people so excited – after all this is the era of selfies, twerking and the Internet – but vaping is still a controversial subject.

Almost every week there is a newspaper running a front-page article warning how dangerous vaping is.

This is very unfortunate, since although there are around three million individuals in the UK who vape, for most of the rest of the population it is still a big mystery.

So what is vaping exactly?

It is basically a substitute for smoking.

Rather than inhaling toxic smoke that comes from burning tobacco, what vapers do instead is inhale vapour that comes from an electronic cigarette, or e-cig for short.

An electronic cigarette is a device usually comprised of a mouthpiece, tank containing liquid, a heating coil and battery.

When you push the main ‘fire’ button of the device is pressed to activate it that causes the coil to heat up and then some of the liquid contained in the tank is vaporized.

You’d then inhale this vapour via the mouthpiece.

Not all e-cigs have a fire button. Many cig-a-likes and vape pen devices simply require you to inhale the device to activate the heating of the atomiser.

What vaping isn’t is smoking.

A person who vapes is not “still smoking” just because they are using nicotine still. Is somebody who chews Nicorette gum smoking?  No, of course they’re not.

Smoking involves inhaling smoke, and you don’t do that when you vape.

The vapour coming from the mouthpiece may look like smoke, however, it isn’t because nothing is burning.

What it is instead is tiny droplets and vapour made up of four ingredients: nicotine, flavouring, glycerine (food additive) and propylene glycol (food additive).


There are many different reasons why people make the decision to vape.

Of course, the most common reason is they smoke and would like to quit.

Although it is not approved as a stop smoking medicine the way nicotine gum or patches are, many smokers do find vaping to be very helpful.

Nearly half of UK vapers have stopped smoking completely since they started to use e-cigarettes.

There are some vapers who have quit smoking already using a different method but miss the experience.

If you’re one of these people, vaping will allow you to enjoy an experience that is similar but that doesn’t have the negative effects that smoking does.

Before the appearance of e-cigarettes, many smokers were able to quit but ended up starting again – years later in some cases.  But now, there is an alternative.

Let’s now take a look at how vaping came about…


An American named Herbert Gilbert designed the first electronic cigarette in 1963.  His design was very similar to the modern day ones, but his prototypes never ended up going on sale for a few reasons.

The technology was one problem.  At that time, batteries did not hold a sufficient amount of power to make the device practical.

An even larger problem was that smoking at that time was much more socially acceptable, so people were not looking for an alternative as much.

Then a Chinese pharmacist by the name of Hon Lik started to work on a similar idea in 2001.

Hon’s father had died recently of lung cancer he was himself a heavy smoker and trying to quit.  He decided having an alternative would be useful.

The first thing he tried to use was ultrasound by turning a liquid into vapour.

It didn’t work too well.

The next thing he tried was a design that is similar to the one that Herbert Gilbert had created, and this became a lot more successful.

Hon patented his design in 2003, and the first generation of e-cigarettes went on sale in 2004 in China.

The early electronic cigarettes look almost identical to a real cigarette – they were comprised of small white tubes, along with a liquid cartridge in the same place that a filter would be and an atomiser.

These would later be imported into Europe in 2006, and by 2007 they were being imported in USA.

These are referred to as cig-a-likes, and you can learn more about the different types of e-cigs here.

There are updated versions that are still popular, however, not everyone likes them.

A British vaper then did something radical and modified a torch. The LED was from the standard e-cigarette was replaced with a screw fitting for holding the atomiser.

More power was delivered by this much larger torch battery – along with more vapour that also lasted much longer.

Then another person designed a refillable tank that was able to hold more liquid compared to the small plastic cartridges.  Soon an entire new industry had begun to develop.

E-cigarettes these days are available in all different sizes and shapes, with some of them having very sophisticated electronics to ensure they are more satisfying and safer to use.

In the media they have received plenty of scrutiny as being ‘unsafe,’ however, they’re actually much safer than you might think.


That’s the big question and the one that the media tends to want to discuss.

Even more accurately, the media want to discuss the most recent study that claims that vaping is just as bad as smoking.

The truth is somewhat different.

If you are a scientist who would like to get your paper published it is fairly easy to get an experiment designed that makes anything appear dangerous, and this is what has been occurring with vaping.

In order to obtain a more accurate picture, all of the evidence needs to be looked at.  It’s a big job so a majority of people won’t have the expertise or time to do this.

Fortunately, that isn’t necessary.

Public Health England, the organisation that is responsible for health policy within the NHS, last year conducted the largest study that has been carried out on vaping.

Based on all of the research that has been conducted to date, they found that vaping is 95% safer at least than smoking.  The Royal College of Physicians conducted another large study and got the same exact result.

If that’s not enough, just go and have a look at Vaping360’s article where they’ve found several research studies that show vaping isn’t as bad as the media make it out to be.

So although vaping probably isn’t totally safe, it does need to be put into context.  After all, nothing is one hundred percent safe.

Professor Peter Hajek, who is one of the leading experts in Britain on health and smoking, says that vaping is around as dangerous as drinking coffee – so not very dangerous.

The most important thing is that nearly all vapers – more than 99% of them – either are former smokers or smoke now.

The big question that matters the most is not “Is vaping safe?”  Instead, it is “Is vaping safer than smoking is?”  The answer to the second question is a definite yes.

Smoking is not dangerous due to nicotine.  Nicotine, in fact, by itself, is just as safe as caffeine.  Cigarette smoke is dangerous from the actual smoke – toxic substances are created from burning things.

Cancer can be caused by tar produced by burned tobaccos, the arteries and heart are damaged by carbon monoxide.

E-cigarette vapour doesn’t involve any burning, so doesn’t contain these hazards either.


If you are thinking about vaping, then you should compare it to two things:

Smoking and alternative methods for quitting smoking, such as nicotine gum or patches.

E-cigarettes were originally designed as a smoking alternative, however, they have developed well past that.

Basically, a cigarette is simply a paper tube that is filled with shredded tobacco leaves.  This technology is old.  However, e-cigs are a new technology – and much improved.

E-cigarettes have major advantages:

1) They are safer – If you switch to vaping from smoking, you will eliminate at least 95% of the risk to your overall health.

2) It is less expensive – Even when you vape disposable e-cig, most likely you will be spending only about half of what you would on cigarettes.  It falls to twenty-five percent or less if you use a more advanced vaporizer.

3) It tastes better – While tobacco has a burned, harsh taste, vapor offers thousands of flavour choices – cake, sweets, fruit and more.

  • It is more acceptable.  Vaping cannot be done everywhere, however, there are many fewer restrictions compared to cigarettes. For example, there are many pubs these days that are vape-friendly.

If you’d like to read more about the benefits of vaping go check out this post.


There are numerous drugs and products that have been designed to help individuals quit smoking.  Unfortunately, most of these don’t work all that well for a lot of people.

Champix is one of the most effective, however, it has been linked to heart disease, suicide, and mental health problems. Vaping hasn’t been linked to any of these.

Vaping is:

Less expensive.  A refillable e-cig will cost much less very month than gum or patches.

More familiar – There is more to smoking that just inhaling nicotine.

Smokers are used to having something that can do with their hands, and there is also the habitual hand to mouth gesture that is so familiar.  Vaping involves all of these.

More successful – According to the scientific evidence, if you purchase an e-cig then you have a 60% higher likelihood of quitting smoking compared to if you purchase over the counter gums or patches.

More enjoyable – Quitting smoking is now enjoyable.