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Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigs and vapourisers, are an alternative to traditional cigarettes that allow the user to inhale nicotine without having to smoke.

Skip to: How to use - Pros & Cons - Effectiveness - Side Effects

Instead, the devices vapourise a liquid that contains a mix of nicotine, propylene glycol (possibly with the addition or substitution of glycerine) and flavourings.

This vapour is then inhaled by the user, meaning they aren’t exposed to the tar and carbon monoxide produced by regular cigarettes.

While some harmful chemicals are found in vapour, the levels are much lower than those found in traditional cigarettes.

If you’re looking to quit smoking and are wondering if replacing regular cigs with e-cigs could be the answer, speak to a doctor online now.

Our doctors can discuss your plans to quit smoking and provide expert advice on the best methods for helping you kick the habit once and for all.

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How do e-cigs work?

The first e-cig was invented in the 1960s, but the technology only caught on in the 21st century.

Modern vapourisers work by heating a mixture of liquid nicotine and chemicals like vegetable glycerine or polyethylene glycol and various flavourings until it turns into vapour.

The user then inhales this, allowing them to get their hit of nicotine without burning anything. In this way, they avoid the carcinogens and various harmful chemicals present in regular cigarettes.

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Pros and cons of e-cigs

While there’s still some debate around the health risks of e-cigs, the general consensus among doctors is that they’re a lot safer than regular cigarettes.

Research has found that although e-cigs do contain a range of toxic chemicals, when compared to conventional cigarettes, the levels of these can be up to hundreds of times lower.

Similarly, studies into their physical effects have so far been inconclusive. Although the products haven’t yet been subjected to long-term research, a study in 2014 found that e-cigs had no effects on the heart that could be measured, as opposed to the many problems caused by regular cigarettes.

Public Health England has gone so far as to recommend that e-cigs should be prescribed by doctors, highlighting that they were up to 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

On the other hand, the liquids used in e-cigs aren’t subject to a great deal of regulation and as such, how damaging they are can vary greatly from product to product.

A recent study examined 41 different types of refills and found that the levels of toxicity ranged from non-toxic to highly toxic.

Others are concerned about the use of propylene glycol in some products, which is used in equipment like smoke machines and comes with severe warnings in terms of its effects on human health.

It’s also important to note that while you’ll technically ‘quit’ smoking by switching to e-cigs, you’ll simply be replacing one form of nicotine addiction with another.

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How effective are e-cigs as a way to stop smoking?

E-cigs have been found to be highly effective as an aid to quit smoking. Studies have found them to offer similar results to traditional aids like patches and in some cases, e-cigs have out-performed these popular staples.

However, it’s important to stick with it and use your e-cig whenever you feel the urge to smoke. Those who only use it intermittently tend to have less success when trying to kick the habit.

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Side effects of e-cigs

While long-term studies on e-cigs are still lacking, a handful of common side effects have been reported.

Some organisations have suggested they may trigger asthma and allergy attacks, while other commonly-reported side-effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Sore throats
  • Coughs
  • Bleeding gums

However, it’s unclear how many of these are due to the transition from smoking and more research is required before any firm statements can be made.


Talk to a doctor about e-cigs

If you’re looking to quit smoking and are wondering if e-cigs could be the right option, see a doctor online now.

Our GPs can talk through your efforts to quit, discuss any potential challenges and provide expert advice on the pros and cons of using an e-cig.

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