What are e-cigarettes? 

We all know plenty about cigarettes and the risks they pose to our health, but what about e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes or e-cigs, are an increasingly popular alternative to smoking. It’s thought that there are around 3 million e-cigarette users in the UK, and they’re a highly effective way to quit smoking. But what are e-cigarettes? 

Short for electronic cigarette, an e-cigarette produces vapour which is inhaled by the user. Unlike cigarettes, no smoke is produced, meaning e-cigarette vapour is free from carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas found in tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes also do not contain tar (a major cancer-causing substance found in cigarettes), or any of the other 4000+ chemicals produced by cigarettes.  

E-liquid is made up of only four basic ingredients: water, nicotine, flavourings and a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine base. It’s also important to note that you can get low-nicotine and nicotine-free e-liquids. 

Types of e-cigarettes 

There are many types of e-cigarettes available. They’re sometimes made to look like cigarettes, although others look more like pens or small boxes.  

They’re battery-powered, so need to be charged, and usually refillable with e-liquid which goes into a small tank. 


E-liquid, also known as vape juice or vape liquid, comes in hundreds of flavours and is used to create flavoured vapour. E-liquids tend to contain nicotine, although you can get nicotine-free varieties. 

Aiming to reduce the amount of nicotine you take in is a good idea and it’s made easier with vaping as you can slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in the e-liquids you choose – either by buying lower-nicotine versions or by mixing your own and adding the nicotine yourself.  

There are flavours of e-liquid that mimic the taste of a cigarette with tobacco and menthol options, but the possibilities are endless – there are dessert flavours (think doughnuts and sticky toffee pudding), fruit flavours and drink flavours (think lemonade and cola), to name just a few. 

Should I consider vaping? 

If you’re someone who has never smoked before, it’s not a good idea to start as nicotine is highly addictive. But if you’re already addicted to nicotine and smoke cigarettes then switching to vaping is by far the better option – Public Health England research has found that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. 


Get the scoop with healthy lifestyle advice, tips and guides from our experts.

The unknowns of vaping

Using a vape can help you when you’re quitting smoking, and vaping is thought to be up to 95% healthier than smoking cigarettes. But there’s so much we don’t know about vaping. Here’s what that means. 

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