Public Health England reports that e-cigarette use is around 95% less harmful to health than smoking. The report encourages smokers who want to use e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking to seek the support of their local stop smoking service. SmokeFreeLife Somerset has experienced staff who can provide support, and advice through the quitting process. Quitting can be difficult at times, and we are here to make this journey as smooth as possible.
What is an e-cigarette?
E-cigarettes are devices that deliver nicotine within an inhalable aerosol by heating a solution that typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerol, plus flavours. This aerosol is commonly referred to as vapour and so the use of an e-cigarette is described as vaping. Unlike cigarettes, there is no combustion (burning) involved in e-cigarettes so there is no smoke and no other harmful products of combustion, such as tar and carbon monoxide.
E-cigarettes generally consist of a battery, a heating element or coil (atomiser) and e-cigarette liquid (e-liquid). The e-liquid can be in sealed cartridges or added to a tank system. Some e-cigarettes use cartomisers that combine the atomiser and e-liquid in a single unit. Although some cartomisers are refillable, most are disposable and designed for single use
Are e-cigarettes safer for me than smoking?
Yes. Experts estimate that e-cigarettes are, based on what we know so far, around 95% safer than cigarettes. Smoking is associated with a number of very serious health risks to both the smoker and to others around them. Therefore smokers who switch from smoking tobacco to e-cigarettes substantially reduce a major risk to their health.
Are there any adverse health effects of e-cigarettes?
Although e-cigarettes are not completely risk free, experts agree that they are substantially less harmful than smoking.
E-cigarettes primarily deliver two substances: 1) nicotine and 2) the vapour, which is usually formed from propylene glycol or glycerol and flavourings. There is good evidence that nicotine is associated with few health risks in smokers. It is the tar and toxicants in smoke rather than nicotine that causes the adverse health effects of smoking.
Is nicotine dangerous?
Nicotine does not cause smoking related disease, such as cancers and heart disease. These are caused by other chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Nicotine is addictive however and it is why people continue to smoke despite knowing about the harmful effects of tobacco. Nicotine in e-cigarettes poses little danger to adult users. In order to prevent accidental poisoning of children, e-cigarettes and liquids should be stored away safely (just as you would with household cleaning products and medicines, including NRT products).
Will I end up using more nicotine with my e-cigarette and overdosing?
This is a common misconception around e-cigarettes. Much the same as with NRT, if you have more nicotine than you are used to then you might feel a little nauseous or lightheaded, both of which pass quickly. If this happens you can just reduce the level of nicotine in the e-liquid that you buy, or use the e-cigarette less. You are in no danger of poisoning yourself and there have been no cases of overdose from inhaling e-liquid.
Can I use e-cigarettes if I am pregnant?
E-cigarettes are a great deal safer than smoking but we don’t know yet if there are any risks to the baby from exposure to e-cigarette vapour, therefore licensed stop smoking medications are currently the recommended option. However, if you choose to use an e-cigarette to quit or to reduce the number of cigarettes that you smoke during pregnancy, SmokeFreeLife Somerset have a pregnancy specialist who can provide advice and support.
Are there different types of e-cigarettes?
Yes, there are three different generations of e-cigarettes.
First generation e-cigarettes, sometimes called cigalikes, are designed to look like a cigarette and generally use cartomisers. When the user takes a puff (or presses a button on some models) a heating coil is activated to vapourise the e-liquid, creating a vapour that can be inhaled. Many first generation models have a light on the end of the device that also glows when a puff is taken. More experienced e-cigarette users (vapers) prefer to use newer (second and third) generation e-cigarettes. Often called personal vaporisers, these are particularly popular with people who have completely replaced their cigarette smoking with e-cigarette use.
Second generation e-cigarettes are typically larger and have a more powerful battery linked to an atomiser and a ‘tank’. The user fills the tank with their choice of e-liquid which may include flavours and contain nicotine in different concentrations. These devices often look like a fountain pen and can be used with a range of atomisers, cartomisers and tank systems. They typically use larger batteries and may have adjustable power settings.
Third generation e-cigarettes are usually larger still with a more powerful battery and adjustable air flow. They also allow the user to adjust the voltage or wattage applied to the atomiser (often referred to as ‘variable voltage’ or ‘variable wattage’ devices). Some come with ‘puff counters’ or downloadable software that allow users to program their own voltage and wattage level, and to monitor their patterns of use. Third generation devices are designed to allow modifications and substitution of individual components according to user preference.
Which e-cigarette should I start with?
This is very much a personal choice. The refillable tank system e-cigarettes (second and third generation) might take a bit of getting used to, but they allow the use of more flavours and a better sensation, and generally deliver more nicotine than the e-cigarettes that look like cigarettes. Specialist e-cigarette retailers can provide advice and there are also internet forums where e-cigarette users discuss the different product types.
How often should I use my e-cigarette to help me to stop smoking?
As often as you need to help manage nicotine withdrawal and urges to smoke. You will soon discover the best way for you of using your e-cigarette, and find that you’re using it when you feel a need to top-up. It’s not like a cigarette, which you would smoke from start to finish, with an e-cigarette you can sip on it once or twice, and then put it away. If you find you’ve got it in your mouth all the time, you might need to use a stronger e-liquid.
Do I use e-cigarettes in the same way that I smoke cigarettes?
Vaping is not the same as smoking, and involves a slightly different technique to inhaling on a cigarette. Ask the retailer or an experienced user for advice on correct usage.
Are e-cigarettes dangerous, do they blow up or catch fire?
As with any rechargeable device, like mobile phones and laptops, it is important to charge with the correct charger and not to leave an e-cigarette unattended whilst charging. Ensure that you buy from reputable suppliers and avoid generic charging equipment. There have been reported cases of e-cigarettes causing fires at a rate of around two per week in the UK, this is far fewer than the number of fires caused by cigarettes.
Is there a problem with secondary vapors?
Although electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke, users exhale a smoke-like vapour which consists largely of propylene glycol and glycerine. The level of nicotine present in electronic cigarette vapour is about one tenth of that generated by a cigarette. Any health risks of second-hand exposure to propylene glycol vapour are likely to be limited to irritation of the throat.
Will e-cigarettes be cheaper for me than smoking?
Yes. Once you have chosen your starter kit then you only need to replace the atomiser (heating coil or ‘head’) for a couple of pounds and purchase your e-liquid which can start at £3.00 for 10 ml. You will notice savings very quickly compared with buying cigarettes.
Can I use e-cigarettes in places where I cannot smoke?
There is currently no legislation preventing or restricting the use of e-cigarettes. Some places do not allow vaping whilst others do; if there is no signage then you should ask.
Further information can be found from the NCSCT briefing on electronic cigarettes, or please contact SmokeFreeLife Somerset on 0800 246 1063 or 01823 356222