With New Legislation to Reduce Second-hand Smoke, Could E-cigarettes be the Best Way to Quit?
From the beginning of October, a new law comes into effect that bans adults from smoking in a vehicle whilst children under the age of 18 are present. Warnings or fines will be handed out at police discretion to both the driver and anyone else smoking in the car.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke, which can cause respiratory tract infections, asthma and wheezing plus other more serious conditions like cancer.1
It’s also Stoptober this month – a Public Health England initiative that challenges the general public to give up smoking for 28 days during October, with the idea being that you are then 5 times more likely to quit permanently. Stoptober packs are available online and there’s lots of advice and motivation to keep you on track.
With the new law and Stoptober coming along together, has there ever been a better time to quit?
E-cigarettes: A Healthier Alternative to Cigarettes?
If you want to quit smoking, you may be considering e-cigarettes. They are exempt from the new ban on smoking in cars, but are they safe?
New research from Public Health England has concluded that the “current best estimate” shows e-cigarettes are about 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and can be used as an aid to quitting smoking for good.2
Smoking cigarettes accounts for “more than 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths and nearly a fifth of all cancer cases” according to Cancer Research UK3. At least 14 types of cancer can be caused by smoking, along with heart disease and strokes. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, of which roughly 51 are carcinogenic, including hazardous substances such as tar, arsenic, carbon monoxide and ammonia.4
E-cigarettes don’t contain these harmful chemicals. Instead they release nicotine straight into the individual’s lungs via the vapour created. Many other quitting products, such as gum and patches, also release nicotine. The nicotine level is then slowly cut down over time so the user becomes less dependent on it.
E-cigarettes have been suggested as an effective way to quit smoking, with Public Health England stating that “emerging evidence suggests some of the highest successful quit rates are now seen among smokers who use an e-cigarette and also receive additional support from their local stop smoking services.”2
How do E-Cigarettes Work?
The atomiser is the heating element. It heats the e-liquid, turning it into a vapour which can then be inhaled.
The cartridge/mouthpiece contains the e-liquid. This fluid is made of propylene glycol and water containing varying levels of dissolved nicotine, from 0 to 24/36 mg, and can be bought in a large variety of flavours. This fluid turns into vapour and is breathed in, giving a nicotine hit direct to the lungs.
The battery is often lithium-ion and is sometimes rechargeable. If not, it will need to be replaced every so often, depending on how often you use your e-cigarette and its size.
Not Risk Free
Although they do not have the same harmful ingredients as tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes are not risk free. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and parents should very careful about leaving their e-cigarettes in reach of children – liquid nicotine can be very harmful if ingested or upon contact with skin.6 The potential long term damage of inhaling pure nicotine is unknown, and there is very little current research on what harm the ingredients in flavoured e-liquids can cause. The purity and concentration of nicotine in the fluid are also under-researched and hard to regulate.
The huge variety of models and liquid brands makes it difficult for health experts to produce clear statistics on their safety.
There is also a fear that endorsing the use of e-cigarettes will encourage non-smokers and young individuals to take it up, which in turn could lead them to start smoking tobacco cigarettes. Allowing e-cigarettes to be smoked in public places could also change perceptions of smoking in general, making smoking become a more socially accepted practise.
Public Health England refutes these claims however, as their research shows that “very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group).”2 There is also a noticeable rise in e-cigarette use that matches a decrease in traditional smoking, which is a positive step forward.
The Future of Smoking and E-cigarettes
Last year saw over 250,000 people taking part in the Stoptober challenge.7 Currently around 10 million adults smoke in the UK but rates are steadily declining every year.8 Initiatives like Stoptober are helping to encourage more people to quit smoking and e-cigarettes could become a popular tool to do so, resulting in fewer related health problems and deaths.