Can E-Cigs Help You Quit Smoking?
With approximately 78,000 deaths in the UK every year from smoking-related illnesses, there are considerable risks associated with smoking tobacco products. And with smoking known as the biggest preventable cause of cancer, many smokers are looking for less harmful alternatives to tobacco products.
Declared 95% less harmful than tobacco products by Public Health England (PHE), e-cigarettes have become an increasingly popular option for those looking to switch away from cigarettes. Emerging evidence suggests that vaping and e-cigarettes support some of the highest smoking cessation rates.
What’s more, a recent NICE and PHE guideline aims to tackle the health burden of smoking by highlighting the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a cessation tool and by advocating for the proper distribution of advice on using vape products correctly.
WHAT ARE E-CIGARETTES?
E-cigarettes are devices which heat e-liquids to create a vapour, which allows nicotine to be inhaled. Traditional cigarettes and tobacco products burn tobacco to create smoke. Heated by a battery and passed through coil to create the vapour, e-liquids contain propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), food-grade flavourings and nicotine. Because e-cigarettes create a vapour and not a smoke, they do not produce carbon monoxide or tar – two of the most harmful chemicals created when cigarettes are burned.
There are several types of e-cig available from disposable vape pens to pen-style devices, pod mods and box mods, meaning there is something for every preference and experience level.
CAN YOU QUIT SMOKING WITH E-CIGS?
The NHS promotes the use of e-cigarettes to help adult smokers quit - with a trial recently announced which will offer smokers attending A&E departments across the country e-cigs and cessation support. According to a 2019 study by University College London, between 50,000 and 70,000 smokers quit using e-cigarettes each year. Another study from that year shows that where only 9% of those using nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum managed to quit smoking completely within a year, over 19% of e-cig users were no longer smoking a year later.
Professor Kevin Fenton, the Director of Health and Wellbeing at PHE notes that “e-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm.” To reinforce this point, Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University added that switching to e-cigs can help smokers “to remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health.”
HOW DOES AN E-CIG HELP TO QUIT SMOKING?
The benefits of using e-cigs when looking for an alternative to cigarettes are twofold: e-liquids offer an alternative source of nicotine, and e-cigarettes support many of the habitual actions of a smoker.
Overall, the intended benefit of an e-cigarette is that it offers a replacement source of nicotine while targeting the most common habitual elements of smoking. E-cigarettes often contain Nicotine Salts e-liquids, which more closely match the way nicotine from cigarettes enters the bloodstream than freebase nicotine, thereby making the whole transition as effective as possible.
Many e-cigarettes are designed to resemble a cigarette in shape, style and weight to replicate the hand-to-mouth action that many smokers have become accustomed to. Most e-cigs are draw-activated, replicating the sensation of inhaling a cigarette. Even the process of exhaling the visual vapour created by e-cigs can help support a smoker in making the switch.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF QUITTING SMOKING WITH AN E-CIG?
The main side effects of quitting smoking are a result of nicotine withdrawal.
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can be unpleasant, and include side effects such as:
- Feeling irritable or jittery
- Experiencing headaches
- Increased sweating
- Feeling sad, anxious or moody
- Feeling tired or lethargic combined with trouble sleeping
- Lack of concentration
- Feeling hungry with intense cravings for cigarettes
Vaping has proven effective in supporting adult smokers to make the switch away from cigarettes because e-liquids offer an alternative nicotine supply. This, in turn, helps to ease the cravings and side effects associated with quitting cigarettes.
*Once an adult smoker has made the switch to e-cigarettes, they can reduce the nicotine strength of their e-liquid to suit their individual needs. Independent high street vape stores are an excellent resource in providing advice to support this journey.
CONCLUSION: WILL E-CIGS HELP ME QUIT SMOKING?
Research from UK health bodies such as PHE, NHS, NICE and Cancer Research show that e-cigarettes do have a positive impact on relieving the health burden of smoking.
To further clarify the confusion and misconception surrounding e-cigarettes and safety, PHE’s experiment highlights the impact of smoking conventional cigarettes compared to e-cigarettes:
In the investigation, PHE and leading quit smoking experts found that vaping with e-cigarettes as a cessation method is similar to using licensed nicotine products such as nicotine pouches and gum.
For further support and advice on switching to a less harmful alterative, it is always best to consult a medical professional. Support can also be found online from the NHS Smokefree service.