Image of e-cigarette

Research shows that e-cigarettes are almost certainly far safer than smoking. 

Over recent years, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vapes) have been getting more popular. In 2017, ASH estimated there were almost 3 million e-cigarette users in Great Britain. More than half of these are ex-smokers, and many people report using an e-cigarette to help stop smoking.

The most effective way to stop smoking is through a combination of medication and support available from free local Stop Smoking Services. But for people who’ve tried to quit before, or don’t want to use medication or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), e-cigarettes could be another way to stop smoking. Most Stop Smoking Services will let you take an e-cigarette along to help with your quit attempt. Please see our page on how to stop smoking for further information.

Graphic showing 5 reasons e-cigs are better than smomingWhat are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are handheld electronic devices that heat a nicotine-containing fluid. The fluid then becomes a vapour that people breathe in. E-cigarettes can still provide an effective nicotine hit that helps people satisfy their cravings. But, the vapour doesn’t contain the same dangerous cocktail of chemicals found in tobacco smoke. They do contain nicotine, which is addictive, but isn’t responsible for the major harmful effects from smoking.

In the UK, e-cigarettes are available to anyone over the age of 18. It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 or to buy e-cigarettes for them. 

How safe are e-cigarettes?

Studies show that people who switch completely from tobacco to e-cigarettes are less exposed to key harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. There are still some questions about long-term safety, as e-cigarettes haven’t been around that long, but the evidence is pointing towards them being much safer than tobacco. 

In fact, research suggests that in terms of safety, e-cigarettes are far closer to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) – a long-established safer alternative to smoking – than they are to cigarettes.   

The important thing for your health is to stop using tobacco entirely when you make the switch from smoking.

Cost of e-cigarettes vs. cost of smoking

Many people are able to save hundreds of pounds over the course of a year after making the switch away from tobacco. As with most things in life, some people will spend more than others. But people generally find that vaping works out cheaper for them than smoking. 

Cost of e-cigarettes versus cost of smoking

References for cost calculations can be found below.

Each person will have their own preference for a device or e-liquid that works best for them to help them stop smoking. But there are some tips that can help you use your e-cigarette safely and effectively:

  • Some people prefer smaller “cig-a-like” e-cigarettes, and some the more modern “tank-style” devices. Research suggests it may be easier to satisfy your cravings with the newer devices. But the most important thing is to find one you’re comfortable using.
  • Use your e-cigarette as often as you need. Don’t wait for your cravings to reach the point where you may be tempted to reach for a cigarette. Much like with other nicotine replacement therapies, you may need to use it often to keep you from smoking. You’ll probably get into a comfortable pattern very quickly.
  • Using an e-cigarette won’t feel exactly the same as smoking. If your first go doesn’t work for you, there are still many options available, including other medications and support from Stop Smoking Services. It’s also worth trying other devices, flavours or changing your vape settings until you find the right match for you.
  • Help is available. E-cigarettes are likely to be more successful alongside behavioural support. Visit your local Stop Smoking Services to give yourself the best chance of ditching your cigarettes – most are vaping-friendly.
  • Tobacco cigarettes are a significant fire hazard, but there have also been some incidents of e-cigarettes overheating or catching fire. Make sure not to leave your device switched on unattended, and only use approved chargers.
  • As with any household chemicals, make sure to keep your e-liquid and e-cigarette out of reach of children and pets. Only use the e-liquid with your e-cigarette and make sure to follow device instructions.

Though e-cigarettes are almost certainly far safer than smoking, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be entirely without harm. And it’s important to remember that nicotine is highly addictive, so non-smokers shouldn't start using e-cigarettes.

Devices can come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are disposable, and others have rechargeable batteries. There’s no right or wrong e-cigarette to use when trying to stop smoking. But you might find some devices or e-liquids are more effective than others at satisfying nicotine cravings. So it’s important to try a few if it doesn’t work out for you the first time round.

The fluids used in e-cigarettes are known as e-liquids. You can buy e-liquids with different levels of nicotine, and some with none at all. They are also available in a wide variety of different flavours.

The e-liquid you use is down to personal preference, but you should look to buy from reputable shops or websites. Regulations set by the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) mean all e-cigarettes on sale must meet minimum standards for safety and quality. This is about consistent nicotine delivery and safety from any immediate dangers, like fire or explosions, rather than any possible long-term effects on health.

Cost of smoking vs. cost of e-cigarettes

Calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK. Figures are for males and females of all ages combined. Cigarette smoking calculation based on 11.5 cigarettes smoked per day on average [1], and a 20-pack of cigarettes costing £8.30 [2]. E-cigarette use calculation based on 3ml e-liquid used per day on average by daily vapers [3], 10ml tobacco flavour e-liquid (brand sold most commonly across the main UK supermarkets) costing £4.23 on average across UK supermarkets [4], e-cigarette starter kit (brand sold most commonly across the main UK supermarkets) costing £14.99 on average across UK supermarkets [5], atomiser replacement (required around every 18ml e-liquid used therefore every 6 days for average user, brand sold most commonly across the main UK supermarkets) costing £4.99 on average across UK supermarkets [6].

[2] http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_report/2017/appendix-ix/en/
[3] http://ash.org.uk/download/use-of-e-cigarettes-among-adults-in-great-bri...
[4] http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/tesco-price-comparison/Tobacconist/Blu_Cl... accessed 31.08.17
[5] http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/tesco-price-comparison/Tobacconist/Blu_Pr... accessed 31.08.17
[6] http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/tesco-price-comparison/Tobacconist/Blu_Cl... accessed 31.08.17

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