Tommy's PregnancyHub

Electronic cigarettes and vaping

Using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), also called ’vaping’, is becoming more common. Right now, we know that they are less dangerous than smoking cigarettes. But we can’t guarantee that they are 100% safe.

E-cigarettes, or vapes, have become a popular way to help smokers quit the habit. But e-cigarettes are still quite new, so there is not enough research into their long-term safety.

What are e-cigarettes?

An e-cigarettes is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine in a vapour, rather than smoke (hence the term ‘vaping’). They work by heating a liquid, which usually contains nicotine and usually some kind of flavouring. Some e-cigarettes are disposable and others are refillable.

Are e-cigarettes less harmful than normal cigarettes?

Yes. E-cigarettes don't burn tobacco and do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, which can cause serious harm to an unborn baby. Experts estimate that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

In the UK, e-cigarettes are regulated to improve their quality and safety. They are now covered under the UK Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.

But e-cigarettes are not risk free. Although e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking, the liquid and vapour still contain potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, although in much lower levels.

Are e-cigarettes safe to use in pregnancy?

Experts don't yet know enough about the safety of effects of e-cigarettes in pregnancy, so it is best to avoid using them if you can, possibly by using Nicotine Replacement therapy instead. But if using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke. 

Is there a better way to stop smoking that using e-cigarettes?

Yes. If you need help to stop smoking in pregnancy, licensed Nicotine Replacement therapy (NRT) products (such as patches and gum) are recommended. These products have been tested and are considered safe in pregnancy.

The best thing to do is speak to a midwife, GP, a pharmacist or an NHS stop smoking service before using any of these products. If you get support to stop smoking, your chance of quitting completely is much higher than if you try and do it alone.

If you still want to use an e-cigarette, you can still get free expert help from a stop smoking adviser. Remember that these specialists are there to help you, not judge you. By getting their advice you can be sure that you're doing the best for you and your baby.

Can second-hand vapour from e-cigarettes affect my baby?

E-cigarettes don't produce smoke. So if your partner, friends or family members use them, you won't be affected in the same way as you would by second-hand smoke from cigarettes. If someone near you is using an e-cigarette, you may come in contact with a small amount of nicotine in the vapour. But experts believe that the health risk is likely to be extremely low when compared to cigarette smoke.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). Use of e-cigarettes (vaporisers) among adults in Great Britain. 2019. Available online: https://ash.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Use-of-e-cigarettes-among-adults-2019.pdf

Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group. Use of electronic cigarettes before, during and after pregnancy. 2019.

GOV.UK. E-cigarettes: regulations for consumer products. 2019. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-cigarettes-regulations-for-consumer-products

McNeill, A, et al (2018) Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018: A report commissioned by Public Health England. 

Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group (2019) Use of electronic cigarettes before, during and after pregnancy. 

Review dates
Last reviewed: 14 February 2020
Next review: 14 February 2023