Are e-cigarettes an alternative for smoking?

Find out what e-cigarettes are and if they're considered safe
Written by
Person hand holding electronic cigarette

There’s a lot of talk about e-cigarettes or ‘vaping‘ these days and whether or not it’s a safer or less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes. They’re a relatively new product, so there still isn’t much data or information about their long-term safety.

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 smoking a cigarette or rollie. They are sometimes 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 may believe they are safer or contain less toxins than cigarettes. However, vapes still contain nicotine, the very addictive substance contained in tobacco, and other harmful chemicals.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

Each brand of e-cigarette contains different types of chemicals and a 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, and their safety cannot be known. 

  • The Irish Cancer Society updated their statement on e-cigarettes in May 2019. 
  • Although most of the short-term evidence has found that e-cigarette use is safer than smoking cigarettes, there are still risks, and we do not know what the long-term health implications are. More evidence is needed to assess long-term risk.
  • According to their research, they believe that ‘quitting smoking using evidence-based methods of quitting remains the safest and most reliable way of giving up smoking’
  • ‘Given that e-cigarettes have been shown to be potentially harmful to health, and are not as effective as a smoking cessation tool as recommended evidence-based methods such as NRT and Varenicline, the Irish Cancer Society cannot recommend the use of e-cigarettes as a quit tool at this time’

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

Related articles
Skip to content