Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are devices that allow you to inhale nicotine without most of the other harmful effects of smoking. They work by heating and creating a vapour (hence the practise being known as ‘vaping’) from a solution that usually contains nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerine and flavourings. As they do not burn anything, no smoke is produced and unlike cigarettes they do not produce carbon monoxide or tar. The vapour still contains potentially harmful cigarette chemicals but in much lower levels than real cigarettes.

Latest e-cigarette recommendations

The NHS recommends that the best way to quit smoking is to get expert support from your GP or your local NHS stop smoking service. However, there is some research to suggest that with the right support, e-cigarettes can help you in your bid to give up smoking. The NHS reports that in the year up to April 2015, two out of three people who used e-cigarettes alongside NHS support were able to quit smoking successfully.

Currently there are no e-cigarettes available on prescription from the NHS so if you want to use vaping as a way to help you quit smoking you will have to buy one. However, they are usually much cheaper than cigarettes.

Negatives to vaping

As e-cigarettes are relatively new there is little currently known about the long-term effects of vaping. More will be discovered in the years to come if there are any potential long term side effects linked to e-cigarettes, however current evidence from PHE suggests that they are up to 95% less harmful than smoking.

There have also been concerns that a rise in the vaping trend will encourage those that have never smoked before, particularly young people, to take up the habit in the first place. However, the PHE report found that there is no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are undermining the long-term decline in smoking among adults and youths.

One study from the University of Athens into the potential negative effects of e-cigarettes found that vaping a single e-cigarette for 10 minutes caused an increase in airway resistance, blocking the air getting into and out of the lungs. One conclusion drawn was that this could potentially cause damage to the lungs in the long term. However, the NHS concluded that as this was only a very small study only limited conclusions can be drawn from the preliminary findings.


There are many other well-established aids to help you give up smoking. Other forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as nicotine patches, gum and inhalers are readily available from pharmacies and some shops. There is little evidence to suggest that one type of NRT is better than another, but NHS research suggest that using a combination of NRT products is more effective than just choosing one.

Everyone is different and so different types of treatment will work for them. For more advice on how to give up smoking and choosing the best treatment for you visit NHS Smokefree.

The Reality

Tim Allardyce, Lead Physiotherapist at Surrey Physio says the reality is simple: “quitting smoking requires mental discipline – just tell yourself to stop smoking and then don’t light up another cigarette”. Research suggests that smoking is far more correlated with being a habit rather than an addiction, hence why some people can just “give-up”. Tim says, “ask yourself, do you enjoy smoking?”