E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) are battery-powered devices designed to look and feel like cigarettes. They are filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals. They are considered a safer option to smoking tobacco for people addicted to nicotine.

Why do people use e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are designed to be a safer way to deliver nicotine than cigars/cigarettes/pipes. I gave up pipes and cigars 20 years ago but I still miss them. We all need our props. It's now Liquorice Allsorts® but at least they don't give me lung cancer and I'm down to 20 a day.

Read more about nicotine addiction.

What are they?

E-cigarettes come in various shapes or sizes but basically consist of a reservoir for a liquid that is heated up to form a vapour. Some are disposable whilst others are refillable. The liquid comes in all kinds of flavours. 

Learn more about the types of e-cigarettes.

What are the benefits?

E-cigarettes are 95% safer than ordinary fags. This even applies to pregnant women. They're meant to be used instead of tobacco and not as well as. They are at least as good as other forms of nicotine replacement therapy. You're better off not going it alone but getting the help of a smoking cessation counsellor. When they first came out there was a concern that young people would buy them and then move on to tobacco but this doesn't seem to have happened,

Find out more about the benefits of e-cigarettes.

What are the risks?

There don't appear to be any significant short-term risks and if you're a smoker you've got nothing to lose in trying them They haven't been on sale long enough to say they are completely safe in the long term. Time will tell.

Read more about the risks of e-cigarettes.

The small print

This is the bit about regulations. E-cigarettes are regulated by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016. This ensures that the e-cigs you buy conform to accepted standards. None of the brands on the market has yet been put through the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) licensing process. This means they're not currently available on prescription, but watch this space.

Read more about the regulation of e-cigarettes.

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Dr Laurence Knott
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
29456 (v1)
Last Checked:
15 July 2017
Next Review:
14 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.