Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigs or vapourisers, are often
made to look or feel like real cigarettes.
Most (although not all) electronic cigarettes contain nicotine (but
don’t contain tobacco) and as nothing is burning they don’t produce smoke.
Whilst e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, users exhale a smoke-like
vapour consisting largely of propylene glycol and glycerine. There is little evidence of harmful effects
in the short to medium term from repeated exposure to these chemicals, and an
absence of evidence of significant harm to bystanders caused by e-cigarettes.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend
that quitting all forms of nicotine use is the best option for smokers. However, e-cigs are proving more attractive
to some smokers than Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and can be effective in
helping smokers quit. Emerging evidence
suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers
who use an e-cigarette and also receive additional support from their local
stop smoking services.
An evidence review published by Publish Health England in August 2015
concluded that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than
tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking.
Key findings of the review included:
- the current
best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
- nearly half
the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than
- there is no
evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for
children or non-smokers
The comprehensive review of the evidence finds that almost all of the
2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or
ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to
prevent them going back to cigarettes. It also provides reassurance that very
few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular
e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group).
All current evidence finds that e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the
risk of smoking although there are some concerns that electronic cigarettes
will re-normalise smoking and threaten the established practice of smokefree
E-cigs and pregnancy
E-cigs are not harmless - the vapour they produce contains some toxins, but studies have shown that these are at levels far lower than those found in tobacco smoke. On the available evidence, using an e-cigarette is a great deal safer than smoking.
There are unanswered questions on the effects of longer term use however, and we don't know about any risks to the unborn baby from exposure to vapour. Mothers-to-be who smoke are recommended to use licensed NRT products to help them quit. However, if they do choose to use an e-cigarette they should not be discouraged from doing so if it helps them stop smoking. Local Stop Smoking Services, such as Help2Quit in Shropshire, can offer help and advice.
Help2Change position statement: E-cigarettes
If you would like further information, please consult the 'helpful links' section on this page.
E-cigarettes are not regulated under smokefree law in the UK.
There are nearly 8,000 different names of e-cigarette flavours and over 460 brands of e-cigarettes sold online.
Use of e-cigarettes has increased steadily among smokers and ex-smokers.
Health consequences of the use of e-cigarettes and the vapour they give off are unknown.
Compared to tobacco products, current evidence suggests electronic cigarettes are less harmful.
E-cigarettes do not produce smoke as there is nothing burning.