An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking.
E-cigarettes work by heating and creating a vapour from a solution that typically contains nicotine; a thick, colourless liquid called propylene glycol and/or glycerine; and flavourings. As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke.
Will e-cigarettes help me stop smoking?
Research shows that e-cigarettes can help you give up smoking.
If you want to use an e-cigarette to help you quit, you'll give yourself the best chance if you get expert support from your local NHS stop smoking service. In the year up to April 2015, two out of three people who used e-cigarettes in combination with the NHS stop smoking service quit smoking successfully.
Find your nearest NHS stop smoking service on the NHS Smokefree website, or call the Smokefree National Helpline to speak to a trained adviser on 0300 123 1044.
Different things work for different people and, particularly if you've already tried other methods of quitting smoking without success, you might want to give e-cigarettes a go.
Read more about stopping smoking using e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes on prescription
Currently, there are no e-cigarettes on the market that are licensed as medicines, which means they are not available on prescription from the NHS.
Once medicinally licensed e-cigarette products come onto the market, GPs and stop smoking services will be able to prescribe them alongside other stop smoking medicines.
Read about other stop smoking treatments.
Are e-cigarettes safe?
E-cigarettes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide – two of the main toxins in conventional cigarette smoke. The vapour from e-cigarettes has been found to contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
E-cigarettes are still fairly new and we won't have a full picture on their safety until they have been in use for many years. However, according to current evidence on e-cigarettes, they carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
New rules for e-cigarettes and their refill containers came into effect in the UK on May 20 2016. These rules ensure that there are minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers.
Possible safety concerns
There are two types of safety concerns associated with e-cigarettes:
- a fault with the e-cigarette device that could make it unsafe to use
- side effects to your health caused by using your e-cigarette
It's important that any e-cigarette safety concerns are reported and monitored, which you can do through the Yellow Card Scheme.