11th March 2020

Should I use an e-cigarette to quit smoking?

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People who use both face to face support and an e-cigarette to stop smoking are twice as likely to successfully quit than those who use other nicotine replacement products, according to a major UK clinical trial.

However, following a string of bad press, there is now more confusion than ever about whether vaping is a good option for people looking to quit.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

Last week [Wednesday 4 March], Public Health England published its sixth independent e-cigarette report. It found that, following the US lung injury outbreak last autumn, an increasing number of smokers now believe vaping is more harmful than smoking. There is now concern that this is deterring people from using e-cigarettes to try and quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality in the UK. The US authorities have now confirmed that vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent added to cannabis vaping liquid, was a primary cause of the US outbreak. This substance is banned in UK-regulated nicotine vaping products.

E-cigarettes are not completely risk free though. The liquid and vapour in e-cigarettes do contain potentially harmful chemicals that are also found in cigarette smoke. These, however, are at much lower levels.

We understand the power of this addiction and the short-term role aids such as e-cigarettes can have in achieving a smoke-free lifestyle.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive

The other main difference between vaping and smoking is e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco and don’t produce carbon monoxide, the two most harmful elements in cigarette smoke. Whilst there is not yet sufficient research into the long-term effects of vaping, leading health organisations do believe e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are designed to help quit, not replace

The aim of e-cigarettes is to help people stop smoking. They are not intended for long term use or as a replacement for cigarettes.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, comments:

“Our charity has been helping people to quit smoking for over 20 years. Whilst we believe the only thing we should be putting into our lungs is fresh air, we understand the power of this addiction and the short-term role aids such as e-cigarettes can have in achieving a smoke-free lifestyle.

However, it is vital that people using e-cigarettes do not simply substitute one addiction for another. We don’t want a situation where people are vaping indefinitely, because we simply don’t know the long-term health implications. We want people to use e-cigarettes in the way in which they were intended – to offer a short-term crutch to get people off cigarettes.

Paula Chadwick, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Finding the right e-cigarette

E-cigarettes are not currently available on the NHS, so you cannot get one from your GP.

We recommend finding your local stop smoking service and speaking to them about which e-cigarette is best for you as different devices deliver nicotine more effectively and quickly than others. It is also important to pick the right strength of nicotine e-liquid.

A specialist vape shop may also be able to help. However, people are more likely to successfully quit when they receive face to face support. Your local stop smoking service are best placed to offer this level of help.