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Are Electronic Cigarettes safe? A Review

Updated on December 31, 2014
tobusiness profile image

Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.


In 2012, around six million UK smokers made new year's resolutions to live a healthier life, they planned to do this by giving up smoking. Studies show, that in spite of all the good intentions, most smokers will fail to quit.

Smoking is both a chemical and a physical addiction, this makes quitting tobacco doubly hard to do. Although there are various avenues open to the smoker to help with quitting, most will continue to find the habit impossible to break whilst those who succeed, do so after several failed attempts.

There are several tools on the market that are designed to help smokers kick the habit, smoking cessation products includes; nicotine patches, gums, nasal sprays, inhalers and tablets, all of which have been available for years. There are numerous methods available to help the smoker, but to be successful, the strategies must address both the physical and the psychological addictions

Cigarettes contain large quantities of ammonia, arsenic and turpentine, it also contains formaldehyde, acetone, butane, lead and nickel to name but a few.

Between the 1930s through to the 1960s, cigarette smoking was the height of fashion; it was glamorized, every Hollywood movie star worth his or her salt was promoting the habit on and often off the silver screen.

These days we see less smoking on screen, when it does make an appearance it is usually as an integral part of a story line. Actors would often include smokers cough to imply the physical effects of long term smoking on the character's health.

The cigarette manufacturers had a history of getting placement for their product in Hollywood, until the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. By 1965, almost 50% of Americans were addicted to tobacco.

The World Health Organisation took an official stance against smoking in the 1970s and the rate began to drop to what is now around 21%.

The manufacturers of cigarettes were forced to list the content of their product on the package in 1998, and the general public became aware of the 4,000 chemicals that each and every cigarette containd.

For smokers who are looking for an alternative to tobacco and for those who have tried to quit the habit and failed, there is a product on the market that is growing in popularity, the e-cigarette.


The number of people using e-cigarettes in the UK is expected to reach a million this year, but is it safe; and does it do what it says on the tin?

According to Wikipedia, the electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, personal vaporizer or PV, is an electronic inhaler that vaporizes liquid solution into an aerosol mist to simulate the act of tobacco smoking.

The e-cigarette is classed as a general consumer product which is regulated by trading standards, meaning, i.e., it should not contain hazardous chemicals and batteries that are included in the device must meet EU standards.

The Trade Association for e-cigarettes explained that the product is sold only as an alternative to conventional cigarettes and that they are making no medical claim for their product.

The device is marketed as a smoking cessation aid, its physical design is generally similar in appearance to the conventional cigarette, but the device holds a battery, a vaporization chamber and a cartridge which is filled with liquid nicotine. The nicotine which happens to be highly addictive, is dissolved in a solution of water and propylene glycol.

When the smoker puffs or draw on the device as he would a regular cigarette, it heats the liquid, changing it into a nicotine vapour, the result is a sensation of smoke in the mouth and lungs without actually smoking.

The e-cigarette was first introduced to the US market in 2007 as an alternative to tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but there is a mechanism that heats up the nicotine to transform it into vapour which the smoker inhale and exhale.

It is claimed that electronic cigarette could save hundreds of lives, conversely; some health experts calls the device a health risk.

The British Medical Association (BMA) believe that as more people use the device which replicates smoking behaviour, even without the tobacco, the more it will normalize what appears to be smoking. They are calling for the ban on smoking in public places to be extended to e-cigarettes.

The BMA would like to see;-

  • A strong regulatory framework for the sale and use of e-cigarettes
  • Assurance that the product is safe, quality assured and effective in helping smokers to cut down or quit the habit
  • Restrict marketing, sale and promotion and only targeted at smokers, to quit or cut down their smoking
  • Do not appeal to children and young people
  • Prohibit the use in work and public places to reduce exposure to the second hand vapour that are exhaled by users

Health providers are advised to encourage their patients to use a regulated licensed nicotine replacement therapy to help quit smoking. However, where a patient is unable or unwilling to use an approved and tested nicotine replacement therapy, they may be advised, that while e-cigarettes are unregulated, and their safety cannot be assured, they are likely to be a lower risk than continuing to smoke.

The Benefits of e-cigarette

  • Study concluded that smoking e-cigarette alleviated the desire to smoke

  • Contain no tobacco and therefore no tar

  • Can be used in public places without breaking regulations

  • Smokers say they feel better using the device

  • Device is reusable

  • Saves money

  • No smell

  • No need to use matches

Concern about E-cigarette

  • Side effects of inhaling pure nicotine not yet adequately studied. Consumers have no way of knowing how much nicotine is contained in individual product.

  • Active ingredients such as propylene glycol, although generally thought to be safe, when ingested as an additive in food, is not adequately studied, and not enough is known about the effects on the lungs when inhaled as a vapour.

  • It is feared that some manufacturers may not adequately disclose all the chemical ingredients in their e-cigarette, and the amount of nicotine listed on the label may not match the actual content.

  • Nicotine, although not the harmful part of tobacco, is non-the-less addictive and is what 70 to 90% of smokers say is the reason they cannot stop smoking.
  • E-cigarettes can be purchase without proof of age, since the product is not regulated.
  • Experts fear the product can be harmful, and should be illegal until more research trials have been conducted.

The e-cigarette market is growIng fast, a survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) suggests 700,000 people in the UK were using e-cigarette last year, and the numbers are continuing to grow. While some medical expert are cautious, warning of possible side effects, others see huge potential benefits.

It is said that if all the smokers in Britain were to stop smoking conventional cigarettes and smoke instead, e-cigarettes, there could be 5 million less deaths in people who are alive now. Some critics believes that some of the advertisement for e-cigarettes are glamorizing what looks like smoking.

If you are inclined to try the e-cigarette, it would be wise to discuss it with you doctor or health provider before committing to purchasing a device. Always do the research and become familiar with the health concerns as well as the benefits, before making an informed decision. This is even more relevant for people with a history of conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Many large companies are facing a dilemma as they attempt to make policies on whether e-cigarettes should be used inside their promises. The argument for those who wish to see this product banned in public, is that other customers, employees or clients may feel uncomfortable with the use. Therefore; some e-cigarettes companies are recommendIng that smokers check before using the e-cigarette in public places and indoors.

More Stop Smoking Aids include:

  • Medications such as clonidine and Wellbutrin

  • Hypnotherapy treatment
  • Local quit smoking groups

Reports in UK news today 12/06/2013 claims, E-cigarettes are to be regulated due to reliability doubts about nicotine content. Promotion of e-cigarettes to non-smokers and children will be prohibited. Many smokers are choosing to use the e-cigarettes, ASH estimated 1.3 million smokers and ex-smokers were currently users in Spring of 2013.

How did you quit smoking

If you are an ex-smoker, How did you kick the habit

See results

© 2013 Jo Alexis-Hagues


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    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Midasfx, the way I see it, if E-Cigs can actually help people to quit the habit, that is great, and recent studies support the claim. I will take a look at your fb page but luckily, I never really developed a habit for the dreaded cigs. Appreciated the visit and comment.

      My best to you.

    • Midasfx profile image


      3 years ago

      Wonderful read, lots of good information. I used to smoke, now I enjoy vaping with nicotine free Juice. So its "virtually harmless" and it tastes damn good ! lol I created a community Page on FB for Vaping / E-Cigs, feel free to like our page and share your favorite flavors or brands!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Amazmerizing, I can see why governments are reluctant to move too fast on electronic cigs, we still have much to learn, it took such a long time to do something about tobacco, and we're all paying the terrible price. I would hate to see youngsters who would never think of picking up a cigarette do so because smoking e.cigs is the cool thing to do. E.cigs are relatively new, and not yet proven to be safe, however, recent research continues to show that more people are giving up smoking with them. We now have a limited amount of advertising here in the Uk.

      I believe that tobacco products should be made more difficult to buy, not easier, and should not be aimed at young people. Only this week, UK decided to remove all advertising from cigarette packs in an effort to make smoking less attractive. Thank you for pulling this one out, always a pleasure to see you, my best always.

    • amazmerizing profile image


      3 years ago from PACIFIC NORTHWEST, USA

      I dont know... it does seem to be less harmful than the regular cigs and I think that's why people are choosing it... My state is considering a change in age reqs to 21 years and older for purchasing tobacco products... now is 18... dunno if that includes ecigs. Interesting hub... voted up!!! ;)

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      4 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi, I agree with you completely. The only problem I can see, is that youngsters may see e.cigarettes as cool, and a glamorous alternative to smoking, they may start using them when they would normally avoid traditional tobacco smoking. I'm so glad it worked for you. Good luck and thank you for the great comment.

    • profile image 

      4 years ago

      Electronic cigarettes have been a great help in quitting smoking for me and while I am aware that they are not entirely beneficial to our health, you can't really compare them to regular cigarettes under any circumstances

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      4 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Tuatha, lovely to see you! I guess the e-cigs are not for everyone, I hope you'll find something that is right for you.There are some great support out there for smokers who are trying to quit, good luck and

      my very best to you

    • Tuatha profile image

      Kari Shinal 

      4 years ago from AZ

      Thanks Jo. Was considering use of an e-cig as a replacement to cigarettes, alas I couldn't do it. Just wasn't the same and well, recharging was an issue as was refills. Considering Vape next but your article is more than correct when stating the current non-discovered effects of the vape on the lungs.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Wetnose, no problem.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi StephSev108, a pleasure to meet you, thanks for the visit and comment, much appreciated and my very best to you.

    • StephSev108 profile image

      Stephanie Marie Severson 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank you for an informative hub!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Michelle, thank you for taking a look, I've made sure that all the smokers I know are aware of this. I really hope it works with no real side effects.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing, Jo, and because I am not a smoker I was not aware of the E cigarette as an alternative to smoking. Thanks for sharing the ins and out of them with us! Passing this on.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Audrey, if the e-cigarette can really help smokers give up the awful tobacco, this could have some far reaching effects. I guess time will tell. Thank you so much for the visit, comment and for sharing, always appreciated.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      5 years ago from California

      This is the first I have heard of these! Thanks Jo! Sharing this around!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Frank, try it only if you're already a smoker. Thank you very much for taking a look.

      Always appreciated, my best to you.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      thank you for this information tobusiness.. at our local cigar shoppe they sell the cigar version.. meant to try it LOL

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi DDE, yes, if people who do not smoke start using this device, they may very well get addicted to the nicotine. That is why it is only recommended for smokers who are looking to quit, reduce or use e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative.

      Many thanks for taking a look, my best to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hmm! Interesting if one considers to use it will they keep up to it?

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi tirelesstraveler, lovely to see you!....I believe there are some places over here doing the same thing. The problem is how to stop young people who would never smoke tobacco normally, from smoking e-cigs, because it's been made to look cool. The e-cigs still contain nicotine, and while it can help smokers to cut down or stop smoking, it would be a pity for impressionable youngsters to start using it thinking it's a way to get a nicotine high. It is not an easy decision to take, we'll have to wait and see.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      5 years ago from California

      Today , there was a news report that said cities were beginning to ban e cigarettes in public places here in the US.

      I am not sure what they are thinking.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      A great review tobu which will benefit many .

      I vote up and share.


    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Martin, thank you so much for taking a look, always appreciated.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      So do I Carol, thank you and much appreciated.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this review and impressive research information.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Good review of this product..I see people smoking these all the time..I hope they are not harmful.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Billy, if it save lives I say, bring it on!...but it should be properly tested and regulated especially after the recent horse meat scandal over here. We need accurate labeling, and a safe products. Thank you for stopping by, always great to see you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the information, Jo! There are two stores here in our town of Olympia that sell this product. I don't know if that means the practice is growing or just a fad, but it will be interesting to see what happens.


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