Published: 12th November, 2018 in: Health Advice News Quit Smoking Smoking Harm Reduction

Looking at the use and effects of electronic cigarettes (more commonly known as e-cigarettes, or 'e-cigs') comes with a lot of controversy and differing opinions; while some stand firmly behind these devices, other believe them to do more harm than good. For many, e-cigarettes are a way to cut down on consuming the harmful chemicals which are in tobacco, as well as slowly cutting off their nicotine intake altogether. The counter argument to this is that the sale of e-cigarettes is putting more people in harms way by 'attracting low-risk youth who would be unlikely to initiate nicotine use with conventional cigarettes' (Glatz et al: 2018: 216). 


In the recent evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products done by Public Health England it has been noted that, with 'quit success rates in England [being] at their highest so far observed ... it is plausible that e-cigarettes have contributed to this' (McNeill et al: 2018: 16). E-cigarettes versus Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is still a huge debate in the stop-smoking community as, much like the e-cigarette, NRT has been the centre of speculation as to the actual safety of the products. It is noted that there is 'an estimate of around 57,000 additional quitters annually resulting from [e-cigarettes]. While caution is needed with these figures, the evidence suggests that [e-cigarettes] have contributed to tens of thousands of additional quitters in England annually' (Op Cit: 113). 


With the safety of e-cigarettes being a major concern, when it comes to using them for smoking cessation it could easily be said that using e-cigarettes presents far fewer risks than continuing to smoke conventional cigarettes. This is as there is evidence that 'most toxins responsible for health damage from smoking are absent in [e-cigarette] aerosols and that those that are present are there at much lower levels (below 5% and mostly below 1%) than in tobacco cigarettes' (Op Cit: 150). In fact, in the review of evidence by Public Health England there are numerous studies cited which show an improvement in various health symptoms for smokers who swapped from regular cigarettes to e-cigarettes. One study given an example of 'smokers who switched to vaping for two weeks' - in this 'there was no change in nicotine intake, but a substantial reduction in exposure to a range of carcinogens and toxicants' (Op Cit: 156). A second study shows '16 smokers with asthma who switches to vaping found improvements in lung function and respiratory systems which were maintained up to 24 months after switching' (Op Cit). 


For many it is still unclear as to the benefits and dangers of using electronic cigarettes, with there being so much exposure to these devices it is often a worry that they will entice younger generations who wouldn't have started smoking conventionally, to begin using these e-cigarettes. With this being said, the Public Health England review studies seem to show that 'e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use' (Op Cit: 13). You should take the studies outlined in the Public Health England review into your own consideration as it is said that more tests and studies need to be done. From the information gathered so far, and the reviews that have been done on studies over the past few years, it is undeniable that e-cigarettes have potential benefits when it comes to smoking cessation, yet it is recommended that you fully inform yourself with the potential benefits and drawbacks of using e-cigarettes. It is important that your are able to make a clear and fully-informed decision before you begin using these products.