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Are e-cigarettes an alternative for smoking?

Find out what e-cigarettes are and if they're considered safe

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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There's a lot of talk about e-cigarettes these days and whether or not they're a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. They're a relatively new product so there isn't much data or information about their long-term safety available at the moment.

Many questions remain unanswered - so what do we actually know about them?

E-cigarettes: The Facts

E-cigarettes (also know as electronic cigarettes, vapes, and Electrionic Nicotine Devices) are electronic devices that can deliver nicotine into your system without the need to smoke a cigarette. They are designed to look like cigarettes and many are battery-powered. Using an e-cigarette is often called 'vaping'. 

How do e-cigarettes work?

There are two types of e-cigarette:

Liquid cartridges

One comes with a liquid (usually in a cartridge), which the user puts into a special section of the e-cigarette. The liquid is heated and produces a vapour, which is inhaled or vaped. Often the liquid can come in different flavours and may contain higher or lower doses of nicotine to suit the smoker.

No liquid

The other type of electronic cigarette does not use a liquid heating method but has some nicotine already inside the device, which is released when the user sucks on the e-cigarette.

Why do people use e-cigarettes?

People sometimes use e-cigarettes as a method to cut down on smoking normal cigarettes. They believe they only contain water vapour and are free from certain harmful substances such as tar. However, they still contain nicotine (the very addictive substance contained in tobacco) and other chemicals so there is no evidence that they are a substitute for traditional cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

That is the million dollar question. Each brand of e-cigarette contains different types of chemicals and different amount of nicotine. There are now about 8,000 flavours and 10 new products hitting the market every month.

However, the industry isn't regulated so there's no way for the consumer to know exactly what they're buying when they purchase e-cigarettes so the debate about their safety rages on.

Can e-cigarettes help people who want to give up smoking?

E-cigarettes are often advertised as an alternative to smoking tobacco or as an aid to help you give up cigarettes. However, these claims have not been scientifically proven.

Some evidence suggests that e-cigarettes can relieve cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. However, the WHO has said that until there is firm evidence to prove this, no more claims that the devices help smokers quit can be made.

The experts say that if you want to give up cigarettes you should speak to a health professional, such as your GP or pharmacist, for advice about products that are scientifically proven (like Nicotine Replacement Therapy) to help you stop smoking or cope with withdrawal symptoms.

Help and advice to QUIT smoking

Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit

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Published April 29th2014
Last updated Jan­u­ary 25th2019
Tags ecigarettes smoking quit smoking
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