e-cigarette on table

Although they have been around for over 10 years, e-cigarette usage has exploded in recent times, with there now an estimated 2.1 million users in the UK alone. More and more people are looking for a seemingly healthier alternative to the staple cigarette, but are e-cigarettes actually any better for you than the tobacco versions they’re replacing? Although the long-term health effects of the products are unknown – with them still a relatively new invention – could the e-cigarette be seen as a healthier alternative?

What are electronic cigarettes and how do they work?

Electronic cigarettes, also known as ‘e-cigs’ and ‘vapourisers’ are battery-powered vapourisers that produce a similar sensation to smoking a tobacco cigarette. In general, they work by heating a nicotine liquid when the user inhales, creating a nicotine-vapour that the smoker breathes in. Many are shaped like a cigarette, giving the user a similar experience to smoking a tobacco version – with some even having a light-emitting diode (LED) on the end that lights up when the user inhales, simulating a flame.

Are they better for you than cigarettes?

It is hard to say whether they are ‘better’ for you than cigarettes. The best option for your health if to quit entirely. What can be said though is that when you smoke a cigarette you inhale more than 5,300 chemicals, including the likes of ammonia, carbon monoxide and cyanide – with 70 of these toxic ingredients able to cause cancer. And if you are addicted, it’s because of the nicotine – the highly addictive substance that makes people carry on smoking – not the cigarette smoke. With e-cigarettes, you get a hit of nicotine but without the toxins. But, as stated above, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes aren’t known because of the length of time that they have been available for – cigarettes themselves only started receiving widespread campaigns against them after the publishing of the Surgeon General’s report in 1964.

Will e-cigarettes actually help you give up smoking?

Although every smoker is different, a study by the University of Massachusetts found that those who used electronic cigarettes daily for at least one month were six times more likely to quit than those who didn’t use them at all.

If you use an electronic cigarette, are you more likely to smoke actual cigarettes?

In general, you are less likely to smoke actual cigarettes. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who currently use e-cigarettes are most likely to be those who were heavy smokers trying to give up.

Even if you don’t smoke, are you more likely to vape?

The big fear with electronic cigarettes is that they could attract young people to start using them, getting addicted to nicotine and eventually taking up smoking in the process. With flavours such as chocolate, apple, and banana you can see why vaping could be seen as appealing, but research by the Office of National Statistics has shown that amongst current users, less than 1 per cent had never smoked before using an e-cigarette. So, it seems that those who haven’t smoked before aren’t likely to vape anytime soon.

What are the rules on using an e-cigarette in public places?

Due to them not creating smoke like tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t generally fall under the same bans on use in public places, such as pubs, restaurants and public transport however this may vary by organisation and it is best to check on the policy.

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