What is vaping?

Maybe you’ve heard of vaping and have seen people walking around using weird-looking e cigarettes that give off clouds of vapour. But you just haven’t yet taken the plunge, yourself. That’s fine! Here’s a very brief overview of vaping.

The word “vaping” comes from the vapour produced by e cigarettes. E- cigarettes are small battery-operated gadgets that generate a fine spray of nicotine vapour which users inhale. Vaping lets smokers get all the pleasure of smoking with only a tiny fraction of the dangers of smoking. 

When you vape, there is no burning of tobacco (or anything else). Instead, people who vape inhale a pleasant-tasting vapour. E cigarettes produce this vapour by heating “e liquid”, which is made from a harmless carrier liquid, flavourings and nicotine. 


How do you use e cigarettes? 

Most e cigarettes these days have a small power button which you press while you suck on the device. When you press the power button, the battery heats the e liquid in the device. This heat turns the liquid into a thick vapour which you inhale, just like when you smoke. 

Likewise, almost all e cigarettes nowadays are fully rechargeable, so you don’t need to buy replacement batteries for them. You just plug your e cig into a power source for a couple of hours. This gives you roughly a day’s worth of power before the next recharge. 

While some e cigarettes have disposable/replaceable e liquid “pods”, most models nowadays are “refillable”. This means you can keep refilling your cartridge with e liquid until the cartridge gets too old to use any more. You can usually keep using cartridges for several days or weeks before replacing. 

Is vaping the same as smoking?

Many smokers want to know if vaping “feels” the same as smoking before they take the plunge.

When smokers smoke a cigarette, nicotine in the burning tobacco triggers a “swallow” reflex in the throat muscles as they inhale the smoke. This is a pleasurable sensation for smokers.

Nicotine vapour from e cigarettes triggers exactly the same sensation in the throat, and so provides the same satisfaction. 

Smokers get a “head rush”, or pleasant dizzy feeling from smoking. Vaping can also give you a buzz, though it’s not as noticeable. It’s true that more traditional e liquid formulations don’t always “hit the spot” quite as effectively as cigarette smoke.

However, newer “nicotine salt” (or nic salt) e liquid brands offer a more noticeable nicotine hit or head rush, even to hardened smokers. 

How many people vape in the UK?

nhs_vaping_adviceAccording to the NHS Smokefree website, there are now around 2.9 million adults who vape (use e cigarettes). The NHS also claims that 1.5 million of these “vapers” have now completely stopped smoking.

These estimates are probably a little outdated because vaping has since become mainstream in UK. This suggests there are now most likely even more vapers out there than the NHS data suggests.

My own vaping story…

Before I started vaping in 2011, I was a lifelong smoker (since age 15) and had tried to give up smoking many, many times over the years (I’m now in my forties). Before 2011, I spent years switching back and forth from cigarettes to gum, from gum to patches, then would stop the patches only to find myself having the odd “cheeky cigarette”, at a party or with friends. A few weeks later, and I’d find I was buying packets of cigarettes and smoking regularly again just like before.

Since my first vape 10 years ago, I have smoked only once (in 2012), and didn’t enjoy it at all – I still got the same nicotine hit as before, but the flavour was too smoky and too dirty compared to vapour from my e cigarette. I haven’t smoked or even wanted to smoke since that time. I have vaped on and off ever since, though have had absolutely no desire to return to smoking cigarettes.

Yes, as a vaper, I’m still a slave to nicotine, though by choosing to take up vaping, my life has changed for the better. By not smoking cigarettes, I’m avoiding the tar and thousands of dangerous chemicals that are produced by burning tobacco. I now feel healthier than I did when I smoked. I can exercise without getting out of breath. My house and clothes no longer stink of stale smoke, and my mind is clearer. 

Is vaping safe? 

Research into the safety of e cigarettes though still ongoing, is so far very positive. 

Official advice from NHS UK is that e cigarettes pose only “a fraction of the risk of cigarettes“. While it’s true that e liquids do sometimes contain compounds similar to hose found in tobacco smoke, these are found at much lower levels. 

Vaping is of course not the best way to deal with your nicotine addiction, if it’s the actual addiction side of things that worries you. 

Vaping is however, a useful way to limit your access to smoking, even if that means just cutting down your smoking habit rather than giving it up altogether. 

There are of course limits to who can use e cigarettes (those under 18, pregnant women, etc). If you are not sure if e cigarettes are right for you, it goes without saying that you should first consult your GP or a smoking cessation professional to look at all the options.