In the last few years, electronic cigarettes have become a very popular method of helping people to stop smoking. They allow smokers to satisfy nicotine cravings via a method which doesn't produce either tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the main toxins in ordinary cigarettes, which can lead to a whole host of health problems associated with smoking.
The process is known as 'vaping' as it involves applying heat to a liquid which then generates a vapour that is consumed by the smoker.
Vaping has proved to be attractive for a number of reasons, including the fact they don't smoke, there is no bad smell from them to get on to the body and your clothes, no ashtrays are required, no more cigarette burns, and according to emerging evidence, there is much less of a health risk than smoking traditional cigarettes.1
However, there is something of a difference of opinions regarding vaping, simply because the devices are relatively new. Although we do know that vaping isn't entirely harmless, the latest studies strongly indicate that vaping is much safer than smoking.
In addition, some studies have suggested that vaping may be attractive to non-smoking children/teenagers as an easy, low-risk way to 'get into' smoking which may then lead them into smoking conventional cigarettes later on. It's early days but this is an important behavioural/social area of research that must be continued in order to determine if vaping could lead to increased rates of new smokers.
What we do know, however, is that vaping/e-cigarettes are effective in helping people to stop smoking. NHS figures suggest that two out of every three people who used e-cigarettes alongside the NHS Stop Smoking service were able to quit successfully last year.2
How to stop smoking by vaping
Giving up smoking is one of the hardest things you can ever do, but there is some cursory evidence that suggests ex-smokers have found vaping is an easier way to quit than some other methods. It is usually recommended that in order to be successful, you should begin with a relatively strong level of nicotine and then gradually look to wean down over time. As and when you do this is an entirely personal decision, but a basic guide would be to try a lower level after a month.
How long you spend at the medium level is again a personal decision, but you should probably be looking at a couple of months as a guide. Dropping to the lowest level too soon could potentially cause a relapse, so it's important you take your time and not rush into a decision before you're ready to take it.
One clue that you're getting ready is you may start leaving your electronic cigarette at home if you go out for an hour. You should try to continue this when you are on the lower dose, and you can expand on it by leaving it in the boot of your car on the drive to work and seeing how you feel, or leaving it at home when you go shopping. By doing this, gradually you'll become less reliant on it, until eventually you don't need to use it at all.
Things to remember
• Take it slowly
• It might take several attempts to go through all three stages before you quit, but keep trying - giving up smoking is the best thing you can do for your health
• This is a process that takes months, not weeks.