New experiment reveals shocking effects of smoking compared to vaping 

Public Health England has released a shocking new video demonstrating the harms of smoking. The experiment also clearly demonstrates vaping’s relative safety when compared to smoking. You can watch the video on the BBC News website, here.

The UKVIA welcomed this study and have released the following statement:

John Dunne Managing Director E-Liquid Brands and Director UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) said: “This is fantastic news going into the new year when many people in this country are looking to quit smoking and improve their health. This further goes to support the positive vaping narrative that this country is lucky to have and I hope it will assist smokers in making an informed decision.

“Vaping is fast becoming the most popular quitting aid in the UK and around the world. However, according to the latest ASH research 40% of smokers have not tried them. There is a serious public misunderstanding of the risks and benefits of e-cigarette use.

“Millions of smokers wrongly think that vaping is as harmful as smoking and fewer than one in ten adults know that most of the health damage caused by smoking comes from the by-products of cigarette combustion, and not from the nicotine content. In 2017 only 13% of adults correctly identified that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking, compared to 21% in 2013. The proportion of adults thinking that e-cigarettes are at least as dangerous as smoking nearly quadrupled from 2013 to 2017 from 7% to 26%. I hope that this experiment will go some way to dispelling this false notion.”

For further comment/interviews with UKVIA spokespeople, please email or call 0203 267 0074 or 07900904707.


The full press release from Public Health England and information about the study can be viewed here, as well as below: 

New experiment reveals shocking effects of smoking compared to vaping

  • 44% of smokers either wrongly believe vaping is as harmful as smoking or don’t know that vaping poses much lower risks to health[i]
  • New short film shows leading scientist demonstrating how the toxic chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker[ii]in just one month compare with not smoking or using an e-cigarette
  • Public Health England estimates at least half a million smokers will try to quit this January[iii]and encourages smokers to use its Personal Quit Plan to increase their chances of stopping for good

Public Health England (PHE) has released a new film showing the devastating harms from smoking and how these can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette or using another type of quit aid. The film has been released as part of PHE’s Health Harms campaign, which encourages smokers to make a quit attempt this January by demonstrating the personal and irrefutable harm to health from every single cigarette.

The film features smoking expert Dr Lion Shahab[iv] and Dr Rosemary Leonard carrying out an experiment to visually demonstrate the high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker over a month,[1] compared to not smoking or using an e-cigarette. The results of the experiment visually illustrate the stark contrast between the impacts of smoking and vaping. Research estimates that while not risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.[v]

Around 2.5 million adults are using e-cigarettes in England and they have helped thousands of people successfully quit[vi] – but many smokers (44%) still either wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or don’t know that vaping poses much lower risks to health (22% respectively).1

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, says“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety. We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking. This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk.

 “We want to encourage more smokers to try and quit completely with the help of an e-cigarette, or by using other nicotine replacement such as patches or gum, as this will significantly improve their chances of success. If you’re trying to stop smoking, our free online Personal Quit Plan will help you find the support that’s right for you.”

Dr Lion Shahab, leading smoking cessation academic from University College London, says:“The false belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking could be preventing thousands of smokers from switching to e-cigarettes to help them quit. I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette. Research we and others have conducted shows that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe, similar to using licensed nicotine products, like nicotine patches or gum. Using e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement such as patches or gum will boost your chances of quitting successfully.”

Smoking increases the risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions, including cancer and heart disease, and doubles the risk of dying from a stroke. Of the 6.1 million smokers in England,[vii]six in 10 want to quit but many try to quit using willpower alone – or going ‘cold turkey’ – despite this being the least effective method. The most successful quit attempts use a combination of effective stop smoking support methods. Recent research suggests that smokers who quit with the help of an e-cigarette are less likely to start smoking again.[viii]

Public Health England’s Personal Quit Plan is a quick, free and easy-to-use digital tool to help smokers find the right support to help them quit, taking into account how much they smoke and any quitting support used previously.[ix]

Dr Rosemary Leonard, NHS GP says: “I wanted to be involved in this experiment because every day I see the devastating impact that smoking has on people’s health but I rarely get the opportunity to actually show people what is happening inside their bodies when they smoke. I regularly give patients advice about quitting and when I recommend e-cigarettes, I am often surprised to hear the misconceptions some people have about them. The results of this experiment clearly show that every cigarette you smoke causes tar to enter your body and spreads poison throughout your bloodstream. Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and I really hope this experiment will encourage smokers to make a quit attempt. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to stop.”

Search ‘Smokefree’ to find the best way to quit smoking for you this New Year.



About the experiment

 The experiment mimics the effects of inhaling tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vape and normal air into the lungs. In the experiment, the lungs were represented by three bell jars filled with cotton wool. Each bell jar was attached to a diaphragm pump providing a continual and equal draw of air through each bell jar. One bell jar was set up to ‘smoke’ tobacco cigarettes, another was set up to ‘vape’ e-cigarettes and the third bell jar was used as the control, with only air being drawn through it.

By the end of the experiment, the cotton wool in the tobacco bell jar was brown, the inside of the bell jar was brown and the tube leading to the air pump was thick with tar. By comparison the cotton wool in the e-cigarette bell jar was practically unchanged, with some water vapour on it and very slight discolouration from the colouring in the e-liquid. The inside of the bell jar had a few droplets of water vapour. The ‘control’ bell jar was entirely unchanged.

330 cigarettes, the equivalent amount of e-liquid (supplied through e-cigarettes), and air were drawn through on a continual cycle, which lasted for approximately three hours.

Further quotes

 Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH said: “Congratulations if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of smokers trying to quit this January, it’s the best way to improve your health both now and for the future. Although e-cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid, research for ASH shows nearly 40% of smokers haven’t yet tried them. Why not try vaping, it will increase your chances of successfully quitting, and be both cheaper and safer than smoking.”

BMA board of science chair, Prof. Dame Parveen Kumar, said: “This experiment highlights the growing consensus that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco and provides a useful reference point to inform those who are planning to quit.

“While the safest option remains to smoke neither tobacco nor use e-cigarettes, there is no situation in which it is safer to continue smoking than to use an e-cigarette.

“With appropriate regulation, e-cigarettes can make an important contribution to delivering the BMA’s ambition of a tobacco free society which will substantially reduce mortality from tobacco-related disease.”

Dr Sanjay Agrawal, chair of the RCP’s Tobacco Advisory Group: “Smoking causes or worsens around a hundred different diseases that affect babies, children, men and women. Quitting smoking is the single best thing that anybody can do to improve their health, and using nicotine replacement products including e-cigarettes is going to make any quit attempt much more likely to succeed. The Royal College of Physicians fully supports the Public Health England campaign encouraging people to make a quit attempt this January using e-cigarettes, as they are much less harmful than continuing to smoke, or with other smoking cessation aids such as patches, gum or varenicline.”

Alison Cook, Director of Policy at the British Lung Foundation said: “It’s never too late to give up smoking, no matter how long you’ve smoked for, and if you have a lung condition it’s often the single most important thing you can do to turn your health around.

“We know that many people have used e-cigarettes to help them quit the much more harmful practice of smoking, so more must be done to dispel the belief amongst some smokers that vaping is as harmful as smoking.

“Given half of long-term smokers die as a result of their addiction, vaping to help give up could literally save their life.”