What is an e-cigarette?
An e-cigarette is a device that allows the user to inhale nicotine without the harmful effects of smoking.
E-cigarette use is often known as ‘vaping’ and e-cigarette users are known as ’vapers’.
E-cigarettes are the most popular quitting aid in the UK with 3.2 million adults saying they used an e-cigarette in 2018. Many e-cigarettes allow the user to reduce the strength of nicotine used over time, meaning they can cut down at a rate that suits them.
Vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco as concluded by the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England [and supported by other leading health organisations including the Royal College of General Practitioners, British Medical Association and Cancer Research UK]
Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes don't contain tobacco and don't produce carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful components found in tobacco smoke.
Many E-cigarettes do contain nicotine which, although is addictive, is the least harmful component of tobacco smoke. This makes e-cigarettes a useful quitting tool as the user is able to reduce cravings without consuming the harmful elements that are created when tobacco is burned.
Evidence suggests that you are three times more likely to quit smoking with treatment and support. A recent study* has shown that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as other stop smoking aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy, when combined with behavioural support.
If you or someone you know has tried quitting smoking but often relapse, vaping could be a helpful tool to keep you on track until you are able to be completely nicotine free. E-cigarettes should always be seen as a quitting aid and not as an alternative to tobacco to switch to, instead of quitting.
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for quality and safety by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA operates a yellow card scheme where e-cigarette users can report any issues.
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Is it addictive?
The most addictive part of a smoking is the nicotine you inhale. Though many also find themselves caught in the habit of occupying their hands or the routines and rituals they have created around smoking. Switching to e-cigarettes (also known as e-cigs or vapes) allows the person to stop consuming the 5000 chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and tar, which come along with smoking tobacco. Nicotine alone is relatively harmless. Vaping instead of smoking means you can get the nicotine your body is craving without the harmful substances that impact your health and appearance.
Vaping instead of smoking also allows you to control the amount of nicotine you are consuming. You can start on an e-liquid* with a high nicotine content and slowly lower the amount you vape until you no longer feel the need to vape.
Is it expensive?
Starter kits for e-cigarettes start from around £15 but can go up to much more depending on how fancy you want to be. You may also be able to access free e-cigarettes depending on the area you live in, so it is also useful to research this.
While you will need to replace e-liquids* and occasionally purchase a new atomiser/coil* (which will cost you a couple of pounds), overall it is likely vaping will cost you much less overtime. This is especially the case if you are using your e-cig as a temporary quitting tool with the goal of quitting completely, as is recommended.
Can I vape indoors?
Vaping indoors depends on where you are. Some venues and public transport have a no vaping policy depending on the type of smoke detectors they have, as the cloud of vapour may trigger a false alarm.
While there is no evidence that second hand vapour is harmful, unlike second hand smoke from cigarettes, some people may find vapour a nuisance to be around and prefer to be in a room without it. This is another reason some venues may have a no vaping policy.
It's best to just ask a member of staff or the people you are with if it is ok for you to vape.
Is it a gateway for younger people to start smoking?
“In Great Britain, youth use of e-cigarettes is monitored regularly. Uptake is largely experimental with regular use confined largely to those who currently or previously smoked, with 0.8% of young people aged 11-18 who have never smoked using e-cigarettes more than once or twice.
Of young people aged 11-18 years old who have never smoked, 5.5% have ever tried e-cigarettes, 0.8% are current vapers, only 0.1% vape more than once a week…
…while some young people, particularly those who have tried smoking, experiment with e-cigarettes, regular use remains low. However, continued surveillance is needed.”
Further data suggests that young people casually experimenting with e-cigarettes is preventing uptake of tobacco smoking.
Are they more harmful?
Vaping is said to be 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. This sentiment is supported by: Public Health England, Royal College of Physicians, Action on Smoking and Health, House of Commons Select Committee, National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, Cancer Research UK and Challenge Group on Smoking in Pregnancy.
What about what I’ve heard in the news about deaths from vaping?
The sudden outbreak of disease which has been linked to vaping is unique to the US and has now been linked to vaping cannabis oil (THC) containing Vitamin-E Acetate.
UK E-cigarettes are tightly regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). A search has been done of the MHRA database and no UK e-liquids have been found to contain Vitamin-E Acetate.
Small numbers of respiratory disease have been caused by e-cigarettes in the UK (69 in 10 years), but tobacco killed 100,000 people in the UK and caused 4,500 deaths in Greater Manchester in 2018. Of those 69 reports in the past 10 years it is likely that these came from smokers or ex-smokers with existing respiratory conditions.
How do you know how much you’re smoking?
You will notice how often you are needing to refill your e-liquid*. If you find you are going through a lot quickly you may want to switch to an e-liquid with less nicotine. However, if you are a heavy smoker it will make sense for you to vape heavily at first. This isn’t a problem as quitting takes time and there is far less risk in vaping than there is smoking.
*e-liquid: e-liquid is the liquid used to fill an e-cig. It contains nicotine and can be a number of flavours. It may also be referred to as vape juice or e-juice. The e-liquid is heated to produce an inhalable vapour. This mimics the smoke from a cigarette without the need for tobacco.
*atomiser/coil: this is the part of the e-cig that heats the e-liquid.