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E-cigarettes: Just The Facts

Electronic cigarettes are designed to deliver the nicotine 'high' without the smoke

They also don’t have other chemicals like tar and carbon monoxide that are found in tobacco smoke. E-cigs, also known as ‘vaporisers’, come in lots of different designs.

Some look like cigarettes with a glowing tip, others look a bit like pens. The level of nicotine can vary, and they are available in different flavours.

There are also similar ‘e-shisha’ products which are designed to give a similar taste to the tobacco smoked in shisha pipes.

When you use an e-cigarette, it’s called ‘vaping’, not smoking. Someone who vapes and doesn’t use any tobacco products is a non-smoker.

E-cigarettes have been promoted as being cheaper and healthier alternatives to smoking, and have become very popular in the UK in the last few years. This is mostly with people who are trying to give up or cut down on smoking tobacco.

The number of young people using e-cigarettes regularly is low, and those who do are almost all current or ex-smokers.

What’s in them?

  • Nicotine
  • Propylene glycol (which is the same thing that asthma inhalers contain)
  • And/or vegetable glycol
  • Water
  • Flavourings

E-cigs vs normal cigarettes

Although we don’t know what the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes will be because they’re so new, experts are confident that the risks are far less than if someone smoked tobacco. If someone just can’t or doesn’t want to stop smoking, they are a much better alternative.

There may be a danger connected with buying e-cigs over the internet as they could come from a supplier who has not been checked for quality.

E-cigs and the law

  • From 1 October 2015, it became illegal for a retailer to sell electronic cigarettes or e-liquids to anyone under the age of 18. It also became illegal for an adult to purchase any nicotine containing product on behalf of someone under 18, which would include E-cigarettes or E-liquids which contain nicotine.
  • It’s not against the law to smoke e-cigs in a public building like a pub or restaurant, but many places make their own rules against smoking e-cigs to avoid confusion and so as not to upset other customers
  • All e-cigs should be kite marked and have the CE sign as this is the recognised National standard.

There are two very good reasons why non-smokers should not start using e-cigs

  • Most e-cigs contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and affects two different chemicals in your brain. If you want to stop using e-cigs that contain nicotine, you might find this difficult as you are addicted to the effects of the nicotine
  • While e-cigs cost much less than cigarettes they still cost money – money that could be spent on other more interesting things like music, makeup or travel to name just a few!
true or false
E-cigs are just as dangerous as smoking
TRUE FALSE
Incorrect. Experts are confident that the risks of using e-cigarettes are far less than smoking tobacco.
Correct! Experts are confident that the risks of using e-cigarettes are far less than smoking tobacco.
true or false
E-cigs have nicotine in them that causes cancer
TRUE FALSE
It is the tar and other chemicals in tobacco that cause cancer, not nicotine.
Nicotine doesn't cause cancer.
true or false
E-cigs aren't dangerous because we know what’s in them
TRUE FALSE
We do know what’s in them, its nicotine, propylene glycol (which is the same thing that asthma inhalers contain), and/or vegetable glycol, water, flavourings. Dangers from e-cigs are more likely to be associated with a faulty device that doesn’t work properly or overheats while charging. People should always make sure that the e-cig they buy is good quality, by buying from a shop which has a good reputation. This will hopefully ensure that the liquid is good quality and the device will work well and charge correctly.
We still don't know the long term effects of using an e-cig, but they are likely to be far safer than cigarettes and should always be bought from safe source.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

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