Electronic cigarettes

e cigarettes imageTurkey, Wales, Normandy and parts of Canada have recently banned the use of electronic cigarettes indoors, and the EU is considering following their example. Campaigners in support of an EU-wide ban point out that nicotine from e-cigarettes may contribute to heart disease and cancers, as well as damaging the brains of developing foetuses. In this activity students decide whether they support a ban. They apply their knowledge of particle theory to decide whether exhaled nicotine can reach non-vapers nearby, and then learn to judge risks to decide whether the benefits of a ban on indoor vaping outweigh the risks.


This material is called a Sequence, as it is designed to last two lessons. It explicitly teaches an important Working Scientifically skill, as well as developing science knowledge.

Science objective

Particles: draw before and after diagrams of particles to explain observations (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Designed for the KS3 Science Syllabus

Enquiry objective

Estimate risks: weigh up the benefits and risks of an application of science to make a decision (KS3 Science Syllabus)

Try the activity

Running the activity

Lesson 1

Engage Get students interested in the issue of a possible ban on smoking electronic cigarettes indoors in public places
Review Students review their understanding of using particles to explain phenomena
Consider Students draw diagrams to show the arrangement and behaviour of particles involved in vaping, and decide whether exhaled nicotine can get to people nearby

Lesson 2

Engage Review the dilemma about whether to support an EU ban on indoor vaping in public places
Play Students play a game to learn how to judge risk
Decide Groups judge risk to decide whether or not they support a ban on indoor vaping in public places, and share their views in class discussion. They then complete a written task to explain their decision

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.


Article about e-cigarettes

This article from the BBC contains links to many other relevant web pages

Article on the health impacts of e-cigarettes

From Action on Smoking and Health, suitable for higher attaining students

Detailed report on the safety of e-cigarettes

From the British Medical Journal, suitable for teacher background