New experiment reveals shocking effects of smoking compared to vaping

Friday, 28th December 2018

A NEW film has been released by Public Health England (PHE) 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 is encouraging smokers in the West Midlands 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 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, 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.

E-cigarettes are not risk free but are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes

E-cigs are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes

Around 2.5 million adults are using e-cigarettes in England and they have helped thousands of people successfully quit – 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).

Dr Lola Abudu, Deputy Director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England West Midlands, says:  “Over 650,000 adults (650,901) across the West Midlands are at risk of developing a serious preventable health condition by continuing to smoke tobacco products.

“We know that the majority of smokers want to quit and there are lots of resources out there that can help them do just that. Smokers can seek effective support through local stop smoking services or through digital support such as Public Health England’s Personal Quit Plan  (”

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, 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.

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.

E-cigarette and cigarette comparison

E-cigarette and cigarette comparison after the experiment.

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.