Vaping and cystic fibrosis
Vaping has become more popular, especially with young people and children. People start vaping for various reasons. It may be because friends and family vape, to quit smoking cigarettes or because they feel it helps when stressed.
You might have wondered whether vaping is safe or how it affects your health. Whether you have questions about vaping, vape yourself or have a family member or friend who does, our information will help you understand the risks and what impact it might have.
What is vaping?
Vaping is when you use an e-cigarette or vape to inhale a vapour, in a similar way to smoking a cigarette. While e-cigarettes and vapes are more common, e-cigars and e-pipes also exist.
A vape works by heating liquid into a vapour that is inhaled by the user. The liquid does not contain tobacco but is made up of many different chemicals. These chemicals include flavours and preservatives and vary between products. We do not know the long-term effects of these products on the airways. Vapes usually contain nicotine which makes them highly addictive.
Vapes are easily available to buy, marketed in bright colours, with sweet tasting flavours and are attractive to young people.
Is vaping harmful?
Vaping is not a safe alternative to tobacco smoking. It is highly addictive and can cause lung injury. We do not know the long-term effects.
There have been several cases of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI). This has been mostly in the United States and is thought to be caused by certain chemicals in vape liquid.
Vapes contain large amounts of nicotine which makes them highly addictive. Levels of nicotine vary, but the average vape in the UK can contain the same amount of nicotine as up to 2 packets of cigarettes. As well as being addictive, nicotine can affect how the brains of children and young people develop.
Is passive vaping harmful?
We know that it is harmful to breathe in secondhand smoke but there are not many studies into the effects of secondhand (passive) vaping. There is some evidence that secondhand vaping causes shortness of breath and other lung symptoms (bronchitis, cough or phlegm) in young people. This means, if you have CF, secondhand vaping could make your symptoms worse.
Does vaping help people to quit smoking?
E-cigarettes were originally marketed to help people quit smoking. Some people may find vaping helps them to stop smoking cigarettes, but they may then find it hard to stop vaping. There are other ways to quit without using e-cigarettes such as nicotine gum or ongoing support from a quit smoking support service. If you or someone you know is trying to quit smoking it is best to speak to a trained professional such as your GP.
Does vaping have specific effects on people with cystic fibrosis?
People with CF should avoid any activity that may cause harm to the lungs. There are no long-term studies looking at the effects of vaping on people with CF. The evidence we have about people without CF suggests that vaping can irritate the airways and possibly damage the lungs. Vaping may also increase inflammation in the airways of people with asthma, causing more severe symptoms. Asthma can affect people with CF and worsened symptoms could occur if you have asthma and vape.
Some studies have also shown that vaping may affect the cells lining your lungs. This could increase the risk of certain infections. This is another potential risk of vaping for people with cystic fibrosis.
Some myths about vaping
There's a lot of misinformation out there about vaping. We look at some common myths about vaping and provide you with the facts.
False: vaping is completely safe
We still do not know the long-term effects of vaping, but we do know that even in the short-term it can cause harm.
False: vaping helps you deal with stress
Many people feel that smoking or vaping helps them deal with stress or anxiety. For many, nicotine increases feelings of anxiety.
False: it’s safe to consume nicotine
Nicotine is highly addictive and can lead to people becoming dependent on smoking or vaping. Exposure to nicotine in early life can affect brain development and may lead to anxiety in later life.
False: vaping is the best way to quit smoking
Vaping may help some people to quit but there are lots of other ways. Counselling, individual or group support, or other forms of nicotine replacement can all help. The NHS runs local stop smoking services that can help you or those close to you quit for good.
Page last reviewed: September 2023
Next review due: September 2024
Research we fund
We fund research to tackle some of the most pressing issues in CF today. Find out how your donations are making a difference.
We're dedicated to creating a life unlimited. We campaign, fund research, support clinical trials and offer support to everyone affected by the condition.
Are you a young person with CF, or close to someone with the condition? We have loads of events, support and opportunities for you to get involved with!
Here to help
Our friendly Helpline team are here if you need us – whether you're looking for information, support, or just someone to talk to