Quitting with an e-cigarette
Thousands of people in England have already stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette. Accessing specialist advice and support through your local stop smoking service or pharmacy alongside vaping raises your chances of quitting successfully.
If you currently smoke, switching to using an e-cigarette is much better for your health. Public Health England states that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Since e-cigarettes have only been around for about ten years, it’s too early for us to know all the long-term health risks, but it’s already very clear that vaping is considerably safer than smoking. Cigarettes have been around for many years and we know all too well the long-term risks – one in two smokers will die early as a result of their addiction.
If you switch to vaping and no longer smoke tobacco then yes, you have quit smoking – congratulations! You will be getting the health benefits associated with cutting tobacco out of your life. Over time, you may want to reduce the nicotine content in your e-cigarette to wean yourself off the addictive substance. Many people find that they initially switch to vaping and then stop that later; others continue to vape but don’t ever smoke again.
Using an e-cigarette is different from smoking a cigarette as it usually involves taking slower and longer puffs over a longer period of time. Because cigarettes (and other tobacco products) are smoked, you usually have one from start to finish. With an e-cigarette you might find you take a few puffs at times when you would not have smoked a full cigarette. When you buy e-liquid, you can choose the amount of nicotine in the liquid. The amount of nicotine you need will depend upon how much nicotine you’re used to getting from your cigarettes. As a guide, most 20-a-day smokers find that 18mg/ml (1.8 per cent) nicotine is sufficient, so you could start with this and see how you get on. Over time, you might want to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in your e-cig liquid.
There are two reasons why starting vaping may give you a cough.
Firstly, if you have quit smoking it’s not uncommon to get a cough. Your lungs are lined with tiny hair-like cells which move to sweep pollutants out of your lungs. Smoking damages and paralyses these cells, which means that toxic particles get trapped in the lungs. This is one of the reasons why smokers are more susceptible to chest infections. After you stop smoking these cells start to recover and remove the built-up toxins from your lungs, causing you to cough.
Secondly, the propylene glycol in e-cigarette liquid can initially cause you to cough. Most vapers find they get used to this after around a week. If this is a problem you could switch to a vape liquid with more vegetable glycol, which can be more soothing.
If you have a persistent cough that lasts for three weeks or more you should see your GP.
Yes, vaping can be combined with Nicotine Replacement Therapies (such as patches, sprays or gum) and with prescription stop smoking medications (such as Varenicline and Zyban).
Second-hand smoke from cigarettes is known to cause cancer but there’s no evidence that second-hand e-cigarette vapour is dangerous to others. However, children are known to copy the actions of the adults around them – that’s one of the reasons why children who grow up with parents who smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. So we recommend not vaping around children and young people.
E-cigarette liquid is poisonous if drunk and should always be kept away from children and pets.
E-cigarettes are an electronic device and as such should be handled with some care – just as you would your mobile phone. It’s important to charge e-cigarettes with the right charger. Ensure that you buy from reputable suppliers, don’t try to modify your e-cigarette and avoid generic charging equipment. Cigarettes are the most common cause of lethal house fires – careful use of an e-cigarette is much safer than smoking.
E-cigarettes are fairly new and there are still some things we don't know about their safety during pregnancy. However, current evidence indicates that vaping is much less risky than smoking. If using an e-cigarette helps you to stop smoking, it is much safer for you and your baby than continuing to smoke. Talk to your midwife about ways to quit during pregnancy.
Smokers who quit with support from other people, whether trained advisers or family and friends, are more likely to quit successfully.