Ecigarettes are growing in popularity in the UK but are they safe to use? We consider the health implications of vaping and discuss the pros and cons of swapping tobacco for ecigs.
Ecigarettes. Vapes. You’ve no doubt seen people using them. You may even be using one yourself. But how much do you really know about their impact on your health?
We address some of the key questions causing confusion and concern around the use of ecigarettes.
Is vaping safer than smoking?
A recent government study found that the majority of people in the UK are misinformed about the relative dangers of cigarettes and ecigarettes.1 Most people surveyed thought vaping was just as dangerous as smoking. This is not true.
Vaping is thought to be around 95% safer than smoking cigarettes2
In the UK, ecigarettes and liquids are tightly regulated.
Although ecigarettes do contain some of the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke, the levels are much, much lower. Also, you don’t inhale tar or carbon monoxide when you vape. These are two of the most harmful chemicals in cigarettes.3
You may have read reports of serious illnesses and even deaths attributed to vaping in other countries. Most of these incidences have been linked to vape liquid containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or other substances not allowed in the UK.
Public Health England's advice is that vaping, while not completely without risk, is still around 90% safer than smoking cigarettes.4
- How do ecigarettes work?
An ecigarette, also known as a vape or a vapouriser, is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine through a vapour rather than smoke.
Vapes don’t burn tobacco. Instead, a solution (often called an eliquid) is heated to create the vapour. This liquid normally contains nicotine, though many varieties do not.
Are ecigarettes completely safe to use?
It is not recommended that you start vaping unless you are using ecigarettes to replace traditional cigarettes3
As discussed, ecigarette liquid and vapour contain some of the same harmful chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke. However, these are at much lower levels than in cigarettes, and in the UK there are tight regulations in place to make sure of it.
Some other risks have been suggested, but more research is needed into the long-term effects of vaping before we can be sure.1
Overall, the major British health bodies all agree that vaping is a less harmful option than smoking tobacco.
- Is nicotine harmful?
4 in 10 people mistakenly think that nicotine causes the majority of smoking-related cancers.1 This is not true.
Nicotine does not actually carry significant health risks.
However, it does raise your heart rate. If you have a heart condition and are using a nicotine replacement product (including ecigarettes) speak to your doctor for advice.5
Can ecigarettes help people to quit smoking?
Yes. Vaping has been shown to be an effective tool to help people stop smoking.
Recent studies suggest vaping may be even more effective that more established forms of nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or chewing gum.6
If you want to use ecigarettes to help you quit smoking, evidence suggests that combining them with help from your local stop smoking service gives you an even better chance of success.7
Are ecigarettes right for me?
Ecigarettes can be a huge help to some people but we still don’t know what their long term effects are. Therefore if you have a medical condition, such as heart disease or asthma, or if you’re pregnant or trying for a baby, other methods will be recommended.8
If you want to give up smoking and think a vape could help you quit, you should speak to your doctor or your local stop smoking service first. They’ll help you decide on the method that will give you the best chance of kicking the habit for good.
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