Electronic cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes or vapes have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Their use amongst young people is a contentious topic. There is currently conflicting and often misrepresented information on their health impact and also worries about whether they represent a gateway to tobacco. Since evidence is still currently unclear it is important that young people are presented with a balanced argument to help them make an informed choice.

For simplicity, the term 'electronic cigarette' has been used throughout this resource, although young people may use the term 'vape'.

Issues to consider

  • It is important that pupils are presented with a balanced argument on electronic cigarettes. Take care to present both sides regardless of your own personal opinion.

  • You should acknowledge the novelty/fun factor of electronic cigarettes that appeals to young people but present this within a context of risk.

  • Young people will be exposed to images on the internet of people participating in ‘vaping tricks’ such as creating vape rings and vortexes. This can be discussed but always placed in context as to how they may be promotional for the electronic cigarette companies and any risk involved.

  • The addictive element of electronic cigarettes and unknown long term impact of the chemicals they contain.

  • Young people may have family members or friends who have switched from tobacco to electronic cigarettes. You should be clear that this is a sensible choice and that the negative effects of electronic cigarettes on health are likely to be far less than smoking.

  • PowerPoint slides should always be presented with both sides of the argument available to pupils.

Purpose of session

To help young people develop their own informed opinion on electronic cigarettes.

Key learning outcomes

  1. To explain what an electronic cigarette is, the types that exist and bust myths - Demonstrating Knowledge (Stage 1).
  2. To present an argument for and against electronic cigarettes - Applying Knowledge (Stage 2).
  3. To give their own opinions on electronic cigarettes - Reflecting (Stage 3).
Stage 1 - Demonstrating knowledge

What is an electronic cigarette?

Resources needed:

  • Powerpoint projector
  • Slides

Key learning outcome

To explain what an electronic cigarette is and the types that exist, whilst 'busting' any common myths.
  • Put pupils into small groups. Ask them 'What do you know about electronic cigarettes ('vapes')?'
  • Give them 'What I know and what is my opinion' sheet to complete in their groups.
  • Take feedback from group and discuss. Use this opportunity to bust any common myths that arise, making reference to the electronic cigarettes powerpoint 'myth busting' (Slide 9) where necessary.
  • Summarise with electronic cigarettes powerpoint (Slides 1-8).

Stage 2 - Applying knowledge

Arguments for and against electronic cigarettes

Resources needed:

  • Powerpoint projector
  • Slides
  • Internet access

Key learning outcome

To present the arguments for and against the use of electronic cigarettes.
  • Split the class in half.
  • Split each half into small groups of about 4-5.
  • Explain that one half of the class must research the argument in favour of electronic cigarettes.
  • Explain that the other half of the class must research the argument against electronic cigarettes.
  • Provide groups with access to the internet to search for articles. As in real life, remind them that the articles are from different sources and do not necessarily present a balanced view point. Information on electronic cigarettes in the media is often conflicting and misrepresented. They need to consider this.
  • Allow pupils to present arguments for and against electronic cigarettes to the group. Ensure you leave equal time for each side of the argument.
  • Summarise with electronic cigarettes power point presentation 'arguments in favour and against e-cigarettes' (Slides 10 and 11).

Stage 3 - Reflecting

Making up my own mind about electronic cigarettes

Resources needed:

  • Powerpoint projector
  • Slides

Key learning outcome

To be able to give my own opinion on electronic cigarettes.
  • Give each pupil a post-it note.
  • Ask each pupil to write one new thing they have learned about electronic cigarettes (vapes).
  • Put all post-it notes in a box and read out anonymously, discuss each answer as they are given and summarise. Refer to electronic cigarettes PowerPoint  'arguments in favour and against e-cigarettes' if needed (Slides 10 and 11).
  • Explain to pupils that given the different views presented, they should try and make up their own minds about electronic cigarettes/vapes. Allow a few minutes to discuss with peers whether they are for, against or undecided about electronic cigarettes/vapes.
  • Give each pupil a post-it note and ask them to write ‘for’, ‘against’ or ‘undecided’ and cast their vote.
  • Select a pupil to count out the votes and reveal the result to the class.

Further support

This lesson is best carried out after or alongside lessons on Tobacco and the Environment and Smoking and the Developing World. A short reflection on previous learning on smoking would make a good introduction. Be aware that you may need to allocate time at the end of the session for any concerned pupils who have family members who smoke.

Further information

If pupils need further information about smoking in general, you can direct them to the Hampshire Stop Smoking Service, Smokefree Hampshire.