A video produced by Public Health England attracted huge attention over the festive period by graphically showing just how much more harmful smoking is than vaping.


The new campaign was launched on December 28, potentially inspiring thousands of smokers to try vaping in a bid to quit for good.

The video begins with Dr Rosemary Leonard explaining that while three million people use e-cigarettes in the UK, there are still lots of misconceptions about their safety compared to regular cigarettes.

Expert Dr Lion Shabab of University College London placed a cigarette into the top of a glass bell jar containing cotton wool balls, an e-cigarette in the top of a bell jar containing cotton wool balls and used a third bell jar with just air and cotton wool ball as a control.

After the equivalent of one month’s worth of cigarette smoke had passed through the first jar, the cotton wool balls were completely drenched in brown-black tar. Meanwhile, there was very little to distinguish between the cotton wool in the e-cigarette jar and the otherwise-empty control jar.

Dr Shabab said:

“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.”

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said that it would be ‘tragic’ for smokers to be put off from switching due to misplaced fears about the potential harms of e-cigarette, a sentiment echoed by PHE’s Martin Dockrell, who said:

“We like to think of our scientists as being detached about these things, but in fact the scientists involved in this area on both sides are deeply passionate about it.

“People don’t know who to believe and they believe the thing that suits them best”