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Vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Fact or factoid?

Posted on December 23, 2019

It is often said that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Is this figure just plucked out of the air as some critics claim or is it based on solid scientific evidence? This video and article outline the science that underpins this figure and the leading health organisations that support it.

Where did the estimate come from?

This estimate is based on comprehensive, independent reviews of the scientific evidence by both Public Health England (the English Government Public Health agency) and the Tobacco Advisory Committee of the UK Royal College of Physicians.

Both organisations came to the same conclusion, PHE in 2015 and again in its second review of the evidence in 2018, and RCP in 2016.

The Royal College of Physicians put it this way:

"Although it is not possible to precisely quantify the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure"

The same 95% safer figure had earlier been estimated by a group of international experts in 2014 led by Professor David Nutt. The PHE and RCP reports were completely independent of that earlier review but came to the same conclusion.

In the United States, the leading scientific body, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that e-cigarettes are "far less harmful" than combustible tobacco cigarettes, but did not actually give a percentage.

Of course, the exact figure doesn't matter all that much, but it helps to provide a ballpark for the level of risk which is meaningful to smokers and health professionals. Just saying it is less harmful is too vague. That could be 30% 60%, or maybe even 99% less harmful. The 95% figure helps to communicate a realistic level of relative risk that is useful.

What is the 95% figure based on?

Almost all the harm from cigarettes is due to the tar, CO and thousands of other toxins produced from burning tobacco. Vaping products simply heats a liquid into an aerosol without combustion. So it pretty clear that the risk from vaping will be much lower than smoking.

Firstly, most of the harmful toxins in smoke are completely absent from vapour. Those that are present are at much lower concentrations, mostly at levels below 1% of what they are in smoke. If the toxins are much lower than in smoke, the health risks will be much lower.

Secondly, when smokers switch to vaping, levels of toxins and carcinogens measured in the body ('biomarkers') are substantially lower and for many toxins are the same as for a non-smoker. After 15 years of vaping nicotine, there has not been one death and there are no serious health effects so far.

Thirdly, we see substantial health improvements in smokers who switch to vaping. Risk of heart attack and stroke reduces, blood pressure drops, asthma and emphysema improve and people just feel a lot better.

Fourthly, the risk of cancer has been independently estimated to be <1% of the risk from smoking.

The 95% safer figure is based on this evidence. It wasn’t just plucked out of the air as vaping critics claim.

What about long-term risks?

Like all new products, the precise long-term risk of vaping won't be known for another 20-30 years. It is possible that some harms may emerge over time and we need to keep monitoring vaping for any new side-effects.

But based on what we know about the chemicals in vapour and biomarkers, the risk is likely to be far less than from smoking which kills two in three long term users. The Royal College of Physicians estimates the long-term risk is likely to be no more than 5% of the risk of smoking, which takes into account the possibility of unknown issues that may arise in the future.


The bottom line is that vaping is not risk free and if you don't smoke you shouldn't vape.

However, if you are a smoker who can't quit you will dramatically reduce your risk of dying from cancer, heart and lung disease if you switch to vaping.

How much less risky is it? Well, at present we can say that the long-term risk from vaping is at least 95% less than smoking. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being found to be more like 98% or 99% less risky.

Further information

Critics recently attempted to undermine the claim that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Read Clive Bates brilliant analysis of this pathetic attempt here:
Vaping is still at least 95% lower risk than smoking - debunking a feeble and empty critique. Clive Bates, Counterfactual 17 January 2020

Posted by Colin Mendelsohn,

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13 Replies to “Vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Fact or factoid?”

Grant Esler

Thankyou Colin This information is really helpfull and much appreciated I smoked for 40 years and started vaping 18 months ago and feel much better, But i must admit i get a bet confused when i watch videos that state the complete opposite


I smoked for around 20 years. I had problems breathing. My blood pressure was high. I could not taste or smell much. I stopped smoking and started vaping about 7 years ago. It didnt take long for me to notice a huge difference in the way I felt. Still I feel great. I'm able to outrun my young children. I can taste the food I'm eating. Now when I go to the doctor they say my longs sound great.

Steve Stefanopoulos

Ive smoked cigarettes for just over 40 years.I started e vapor only one month ago and already I have more energy better appetite smell and taste better.So that I don’t continue to crave nicotine I started on 12mg nicotine for two weeks then cut down to 8mg for the next two weeks.So far so good as the days go by I’m finding that I don’t need to vape as much as as I did when I first started vaping.I will keep yous up to date as I continue my mission to completely give up the vaping before that too becomes a habit.

Dallas Dobson

Thank you for an honest and informed perspective.

Jessica Jones

Thank you for this! I am vaping now to stop smoking and am so glad to know it is safer!

Paul Walsh

When this pandemic came around last year, I was smoking off/on for over 45years, more on than off, when I understood that the covid 19 was a respiratory disease which attacked the lungs severely, I decided to quit, however, I also used a vaping pen and liquid to help me, I vaped heavily first week or so, after which I slowed down considerably, I now vape no more than 8–10 times a day, using strength 6mg, a 10ml bottle lasts about 10–14days.
I have never felt better, I breathe a lot easier, I can walk miles without getting out of breath, i exercise 4–5times a week, I eat better food and have a lot more energy, I think there is a lot to be said for vaping as opposed to smoking, also, although not necessarily the best part, but is certainly noticeable, I have saved a small fortune not smoking, literally,

Timothy Sullivan

Thanks for inspiring me Paul ,these fucking cigarettes got ahold of me and cancer runs rampid in my family.i can't seem to quit but I also found that vaping helps and I have been smoking around the same amount of time as you but I went back to smoking.After reading your words I aim to try again.i am a 47 year old male and just found a lump in my chest so I have to see the mom died at 55.!!!!! I can't smoke nomore so it helps to know someone else that had success.thanks again Paul and keep up the good work 👍

Mark Daniels

I switched from smoking to vaping two years ago, and immediately felt MUCH better. I’d made a list of troubling symptoms I had from smoking, and after switching to vaping they all completely vanished. Following my attempts to quit ALL nicotine in the past, I’ve always fallen into a clinical depression, and I never want to experience those moods again. I’m okay with remaining a nicotine addict (vaper) for the rest of my life if depression is my alternative, and the findings in this article make me feel better about the decision. (And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be better equipped to quit ALL nicotine. For now, I’ll keep vaping.).

I’m hoping somebody can clear-up one thing, though. It says above there hasn’t been even one death from vaping in 15 years. We know about the EVALI outbreak of 2019 which killed roughly 70 people… deaths which, of course, were all tied to Vitamin E acetate in black market vaping products. Have there really been NO VAPING DEATHS besides those, in regulated vaping products? If so, that’s a very heartening fact, and I’d love to cite this when arguing against vaping critics who pester me to quit. Is there a better way to phrase the “not one death!” statistic, making it more accurate but still absolving me of my decision to vape?

Daniel L. Amram

What do you think about dual use of e-cig and cigarettes? Available scientific evidence points out how more than 70% of vapers also smoke conventional cigarettes (at least here in Italy) and smoking less cigarettes is an undeniable risk factor for stroke and cancer.

Timothy Sullivan

Daniel I say if vaping gets you to smoke less cigarettes even if you continue to use both it has to be a better outcome than just the cigarettes.good luck.

Vape Shop NZ

While the evidence is not definitive, vaping is better than smoking, but still it poses less risks. This post and video has helped me understand that I need to stop smoking completely and vaping can help me to a certain extent. After some time, it is best to quit both these things. I would order my vaping kit now from the best vape shop NZ ( and take a step to quit smoking. The post helped me. Thanks.

robert harvey

i was 13 years old when i started smoking, i smoked for 42 years and i had tried so many times to quit but always went back to smoking, the habit or dependence was just too strong, even when i had to have part of my right lung removed due to smoking damage i still could not quit for long.
then 7 years ago i found out about vaping and thought i would give it a try, i was amazed at how well it worked and i quit smoking on the first day of vaping and have not smoked now for 7 years, i am now 62 years old.
i feel so much better since i quit smoking, i can breath much better now even better then before i had my lung operation, food tastes so much better and my sense of smell is stronger, i can also do much more exercise without getting tired and out of breath too quickly.


The difference between smoking and vaping is that smoking delivers nicotine by burning tobacco, which can cause smoking-related illnesses, and vaping can deliver nicotine by heating a liquid in a much less harmful way. So we can justify that It could be safer than smoking.


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