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Is vaping safe? © Getty Images

Is vaping safe?

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They say there's no smoke without fire, but the jury is still out on the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.

Asked by: Stacey Hughes, Buckinghamshire


The most recent research shows that vaping is much less bad for you than smoking. If you already smoke cigarettes, then switching completely to e-cigarettes will significantly improve your health. But smoking is so bad for you that you could switch to skydiving and still come out ahead! Skydiving every day for 70 years gives a 23 per cent chance of early death, while lifelong smokers have a 50 per cent chance of dying before 70.

The real question is: can you safely take up recreational vaping, even if you don’t already smoke? The evidence for this is much less clear. Nicotine by itself doesn’t cause cancer, and vape juice doesn’t contain any of the 70 known carcinogens that are present in tobacco. But it does contain other chemicals, such as propylene glycol. When this is heated by the electric element in the e-cigarette, it can create formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic. The different flavour chemicals used in vape juice are all organic compounds, and these can also be altered by the heating element.

Vaping has only been around for a decade, so it is still too soon to be sure of long-term effects. Since e-cigarettes will get you hooked on nicotine just as surely as tobacco does, it doesn’t seem wise to take up a whole new addiction.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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