Vaping: Origins, safety, ingredients, and regulations

09 Mar 2020 · 5 min read

Vapes are smoke-free alternatives that – if they are scientifically substantiated and regulated to an appropriate standard – are a better choice for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke.

What is vaping?

Vaping has become a common sight in many parts of the world in the last few years. But what are they? Are they safe? How do they compare to cigarettes? What do they contain? And what about vaping indoors?

There are specific details about devices that vary, so always read up on your individual device as much as possible. We’ve also answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.

What is vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because many people refer to the aerosol the e-cigarettes produce as a vapor. 

The origins of vaping

Who invented vaping?

Vaping can be traced back to the invention of the modern e-cigarette by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. This led to the development of the vapes and e-cigarettes popular today.

When did vaping begin?

A vaping product was first introduced in China in 2004, and products were then introduced to the rest of the world within a few years.

Vaping health and safety

Is vaping safe?

Vaping is not safe. But unlike smoking, there is no burning of tobacco and therefore no smoke to inhale, making the use of scientifically substantiated vaping products a much better choice than continued smoking for adults. That’s because it is the burning of tobacco that causes the production of the vast majority of harmful chemicals that are the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. By eliminating the burning process – as is the case with smoke-free products – the levels of harmful chemicals generated can be significantly reduced compared with cigarette smoke. Of course, each product should be scientifically assessed.

Is vaping addictive?

Some vapes contain nicotine, which is addictive, while others do not. Check your product to see the list of ingredients.

Is nicotine bad for you?

Nicotine is not risk free. However, it is not the primary cause of smoking-related illnesses, and scientifically substantiated and appropriately regulated e-cigarettes are a better alternative than continuing to smoke cigarettes. You can learn more about the role of nicotine here. In order for adult smokers who would not otherwise quit smoking to switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives, these products usually contain nicotine, and also provide a taste and experience that is acceptable to existing smokers. However, the best choice remains to quit cigarettes and nicotine completely.

Is vaping healthier than cigarettes?

Although vaping is a better alternative than continuing to smoke cigarettes, it is not safe. The best choice for any adult smoker is to completely give up cigarettes and nicotine altogether.

Does vaping give off secondhand smoke?

Major health agencies disagree on the subject of secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization says, “The aerosols generated by ENDS typically contain toxic substances. ENDS pose risks to both users and non-users.” The U.K.’s National Health Service says, “[Using] e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, doesn’t produce tobacco smoke, so the risks of passive smoking with conventional cigarettes don’t apply to e-cigs.”

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Ingredients and components of vapes

What am I inhaling when I vape?

The vapor produced when vaping is mostly vaporized water, along with the ingredients contained in the vape juice. The ingredients used in each vaping products varies. Check your product to see the list of ingredients.

What is e-liquid/vape juice, and what does it contain?

E-liquid, or vape juice, is the mix of liquid solutions often found in vapes. They often contain, amongst other ingredients, nicotine, flavors, and glycerin and/or propylene glycol. However, this varies by product, so check what your specific e-liquid/vape juice contains.

What are glycerin and propylene glycol?

Glycerin and Propylene glycol are the two most common substances in the majority of e-liquids. They dilute the nicotine and flavors to the correct concentration, and form the clouds that you exhale.

What’s the difference between open and closed vaping systems?

The main difference between open and closed vaping systems is the way they deliver the e-liquid. In an open system, the user manually fills the tank with e-liquid. Closed system vapes use pre-filled e-liquid tanks.

Do vapes smell?

This depends on the ingredients contained in the vape. Some do have a distinctive smell, while others don’t. Check your product specification.

Vaping vs. smoking

Are vapes only for people who want to quit smoking?

Smoking alternatives such as vapes are for adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking cigarettes. The best option for any adult smoker is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether. In our opinion, vapes are not considered to be cessation devices.

Does vaping taste the same as smoking?

Vapes can contain different ingredients, with various flavors. Check your product specification and the ingredients it contains.

Vaping vs. heated tobacco

What is the difference between vapes and heated tobacco products, also known as heat-not-burn products?

Heated tobacco devices heat tobacco within a specific temperature range, using an electronic heat-control system to prevent it from burning. E-cigarettes vaporize an e-liquid containing nicotine and flavors when a user draws on it. Learn more about the differences between vapes and heated tobacco products here.

Vaping regulations

Are vaping products regulated?

Vaping products are regulated. However, the regulation differs dependent on country, or even region within a country. The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction has a page where you can check the current vaping regulation in your country

Where is vaping banned?

Some countries have banned specific types of vapes, while some have banned vaping altogether. You can look on page 85 of the annual report from The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction to see if vapes are banned. 

Can I use a vape indoors?

The law regarding vaping indoors varies from country to country, and sometimes within that country. For example, there is currently no regulation in the U.K. preventing the use of vapes indoors. In other countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, regulation differs from state to state, so it is best to check before doing so.

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