What is vaping and is it safe?

A woman vaping Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Doctors have said people should regard e-cigarettes as safer than tobacco at their “peril” after a 19-year-old boy suffered “catastrophic” respiratory failure thought to have been caused by vaping.

Ewan Fisher was treated for hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) – a type of allergic reaction to something breathed in which results in inflammation of the lung tissue.

He had been vaping for four to five months before he was taken ill aged 16.

  • What is vaping?

Vaping involves using electronic-cigarettes or other devices to inhale a vapour which often contains nicotine and flavourings but not tobacco.

  • Will it help me quit cigarettes?

Studies suggest that vaping may be a useful aid to quitting regular cigarettes and many smokers use them as part of their efforts to stop smoking.

Vaping involves using electronic-cigarettes to inhale a vapour which contains nicotine. Credit: PA
  • Is vaping safe?

The jury is still out.

Public Health England (PHE) and many other health bodies say vaping is much, much safer than cigarette smoking and smokers should switch to e-cigarettes.

However, studies suggest vaping in itself can cause damage to the lungs, heart and other tissue.

Long-term studies on the risks are not yet available.

  • How many people vape?

A survey in September by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) suggests an estimated 3.6 million people in the UK are currently vaping, up from 3.2 million in 2018.

  • What about the US?

The US authorities have taken a much harder stance against vaping than regulators in the UK.

President Donald Trump has said he will raise the legal vaping age to 21 “or so”, while officials are preparing a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes.

This follows reports of deaths and lung injury from vaping, although some cases are thought to be caused by inhaling cannabis.