What vaping does to your body as UK moves to ban disposable vapes

Reports suggest there could be a ban on single-use vapes, but what are the health implications of vaping? (Getty Images)
Reports suggest there could be a ban on single-use vapes, but what are the health implications of vaping? (Getty Images)

The UK government is seeking to ban disposable vapes, in an effort to curb youth vaping.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he is taking action to ban single-use vapes, as well as restrict certain flavours and colourful packaging to make them less appealing to children and young people.

He said in a statement: "As any parent or teacher knows, one of the most worrying trends at the moment is the rise in vaping among children, and so we must act before it becomes endemic."

It comes after a 12-year-old girl suffered a lung collapse and spent four days in an induced coma last year. She warned other children to never start vaping.

Sarah Griffin, from Belfast, had asthma and started vaping when she was only nine years old. She was rushed to hospital because of breathing problems a month ago, the BBC reported.

Griffin has been left with permanent lung damage. She told the BBC: "Don't start doing it, because once you start doing it, you don't stop doing it. You only stop when you basically have to, when it's a life or death situation."

In a statement, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health's vice president for policy and consultant in respiratory paediatrics, Dr Mike McKean, said: "We’re delighted that the Westminster Government has heard our calls and is rightly prioritising the health and well-being of our children and the planet.

"Bold action was always needed to curb youth vaping and banning disposables is a meaningful step in the right direction. I’m also extremely pleased to see further much needed restrictions on flavours, packaging, and marketing of vapes, which RCPCH has repeatedly called for."

Vaping teens. (Getty Images)
More and more young people are taking up vaping. (Getty Images)

Sold in bright colours, disposable vapes come in sweet and fruity flavours like pink lemonade, gummy bear and watermelon.

Statistics revealed that more people aged 16 to 24 in Britain are using e-cigarettes – with a sharp rise among young women – which experts have described as "worrying".

Vapes used by children were found to have high levels of lead, nickel and chromium, BBC News unearthed last year. E-cigarettes confiscated from pupils at Baxter College in Kidderminster were tested in a lab, revealing shocking results.

Those using them could be inhaling more than twice the daily safe amount of lead and nine times the safe amount of nickel, while some vapes also contain harmful chemicals similar to those found in cigarette smoke.

The Inter Scientific laboratory in Liverpool analysed 18 vapes to find most were illegal and hadn't gone through safety testing before being sold, prompting concern about how widespread the issue is.

Man vaping. (Getty Images)
Vaping should only be used to help quit smoking. (Getty Images)

How safe is vaping?

Advice surrounding the safety of vaping can seem somewhat conflicted.

"Numerous studies from health groups in the UK have concluded that using an e-cigarette, known as vaping, is better for your health compared to smoking," Dr Diana Gall, from Doctor 4 U previously told Yahoo Life.

“A report by Public Health England, which was compiled by several UK-based academics, found that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Cancer Research UK has also given its support to people using vaping as a means of fighting against smoking related diseases.”

However, while the Cancer Research UK website acknowledges e-cigarettes are thought to be better than smoking, it adds: ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​"E-cigarettes are not risk-free. We don't yet know their long-term effects, so people who have never smoked shouldn't use them."

The charity points out that there is no good evidence to show that vaping [when using safety-checked vapes] causes cancer. But, it adds, "They can cause side effects such as throat and mouth irritation, headache, cough and feeling sick. These side effects tend to reduce over time with continued use. We don’t know yet what effects they might have in the long term."

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, has said previously: "If you smoke, vaping is much safer; if you don’t smoke, don’t vape; marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable."

The health implications of vaping:


While many experts believe vaping is much less damaging to health compared to smoking, some research has cast an element of doubt over those beliefs.

For example:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies highlighted the damaging effect of vaping on blood vessels. Long-term use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping products, can significantly impair their function, increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, the research suggested

  • Also, something to be aware of is that ending up using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes can cause an even greater risk when done together

  • Researchers from the University of Athens also previously found that flavourings in e-cigarettes harm the lungs by causing inflammation

Man holding normal and e-cigarette. (Getty Images)
How much better are e-cigarettes than normal ones? (Getty Images)

Other research has raised questions about the chemicals in e-cigarettes. "Certain studies have found certain chemicals in e-cigarette vapour that are the same than those found in cigarette smoke, but they are [typically] at much lower levels," explains Dr Gall.

NHS figures also show a rise in the number of children admitted to hospital due to vaping.

Forty children and young people were admitted to hospital in England last year due to “vaping-related disorders”, which could include lung damage or worsening asthma symptoms, up from 11 two years earlier, the NHS said.

How to talk to your children about vaping

The NHS has put together some facts to tell young people about vaping:

  • Vaping is a way for adults to stop smoking – not something for non-smokers, especially children and young people to try.

  • Vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking but that does not mean it is harmless.

  • In the UK, it is against the law to sell nicotine vaping products to under-18s or for adults to buy them on their behalf.

  • Vaping exposes users to some toxins, and we do not yet know what the risks might be in the longer term.

  • Some vapes contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance that can be hard to stop using once you have started.

  • Nicotine may be more risky for young people than for adults, as evidence suggests the brain in adolescence is more sensitive to its effects.

  • Some disposable vapes on sale are illegal and do not meet UK quality and safety regulations.

Read more:

Watch: Detection of vaping among children 'may be more difficult' than parents realise

Additional reporting PA.