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Health Defence Blog

Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes (aka e-cigs or vapes) have been around for about 10 years in the UK and have become increasingly popular with smokers who are trying to give up the habit.

However they have caused a lot of controversy as people worry that they are dangerous to use, will encourage younger people to begin smoking or are more harmful than cigarettes. There have been several reports in the media which adds to this confusion.

  • Will e-cigarettes reveal their harmful effects once the damage has been done?
  • Or are they a sensible alternative to smoking tobacco?
  • And, can they help to quit smoking?

Our guest blogger Jill Adams, CHSS Cardiac & Respiratory Manager, separates fact from fiction…

What are e-cigarettes?

  • battery powered device that heats up a liquid called propylene glycol or glycerin.
  • The liquid can have nicotine or flavouring added to it. As the liquid heats, it turns into a vapour – hence the term ‘vaping’.
  • Propylene glycol is generally recognised as safe and is used in ice-cream products and some oral medications. Glycerin is a sugar compound regularly used in food production.
  • The amount of nicotine that is added to the liquid can vary and a wide range of flavours are now available.

Are they safe to use?

  • There is still not enough evidence to show the long term effects of using e-cigarettes but what is becoming clear is that they are considerably safer to use that tobacco cigarettes.
  • The nicotine that they contain is a relatively harmless drug that smokers crave, however it is the tobacco leaf that causes all the damage.
  • Tobacco smoking is still the largest avoidable cause of premature death, disability and social inequalities in health in the UK.
  • Changing from tobacco to e-cigarettes will reduce your risk of tobacco related problems by 95%.cig

Are e-cigarettes regulated?

Until recently, e-cigarettes have been considered as general consumer products. From May 2016 the EU directive will impose new restrictions which should result in tighter controls of the devices available.

Do e-cigarettes encourage young people to take up smoking? 

  • This has been a real concern for many and the experts are monitoring the situation carefully. So far the evidence suggests that this is not the case, showing that young people who have tried e-cigarettes have already tried tobacco cigarettes anyway.
  • The sale of these devices to under 18’s is illegal and advertising is also restricted.

What about if someone uses both types of cigarette?

  • This is called ‘dual use’ and it can happen as someone begins using e-cigarettes and tries to reduce their use of tobacco cigarettes but have not fully stopped yet.
  • There is no increased harm in using both as far as research shows but if someone continues using any tobacco products at all then they will still remain at risk.

Can e-cigarettes help to quit smoking? 

  • There is some thinking that e-cigarettes may be a helpful tool to stop smoking (tobacco cigarettes). Early reports show that this can have similar or better success rates for quitting than regular nicotine replacement therapies (e.g. patches or gum). The problem with this is when people 'dual use' (as mentioned above) - as this does not eliminate the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
  • People have the best success at stopping smoking when they have the support of a specialised stop smoking team. E-cigarettes may be one of the options recommended by these teams to help manage cravings.
  • Contact Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84  to find out where your nearest support team is. Or visit NHS Inform Stop Smoking for more information.

For more information, take a look the CHSS Stopping Smoking factsheet.

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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