07/04/2016 07:41 BST | Updated 07/04/2017 06:12 BST

Are E-cigarettes a Viable Way to Quit Smoking?


In the beginning of 2016, it was announced that the NHS had plans to offer e-cigarettes on prescription, for those looking to quit smoking permanently.

The announcement caused some controversy amongst medical practitioners and governing bodies, with the for and against arguments coming to the fore front. With such little scientific evidence and research around the long term health effects of using e-cigs, some were unhappy with the NHS for publicly backing their use.

One of the organisations 'for' the use of electronic cigarettes is Public Health England, who have previously commissioned a report around e-cigarettes. The report claims that e-cigarettes are estimated to be around 95% safer than smoking, due to the distinct lack of free radicals.

In a recent survey conducted by E-Cig Review Site, the public were asked if they thought that e-cigs were a safer form of quitting traditional cigarettes. Overall, 66% said that they did feel that e-cigs were a safer way to quit smoking, however 22.4% said that they were still unsure. This shows that despite the lack of evidence for or against, people still agree that because of the significantly less harmful ingredients that have been found in e-liquid, vaping is a much better alternative to smoking.

The main argument for using e-cigarettes as a 'stop smoking' aid, is that they provide a high nicotine hit that other forms do not offer and allow the user to slowly work their way down to a 0mg dosage, effectively weaning the smoker off nicotine completely. However, unlike normal tobacco cigarettes, which have had extensive scientific tests conducted on their effects on both the smoker and those around second hand smoke, e-cigarettes have not been thoroughly tested to see if they are still causing damage to the body.

Organisations such as the British Medical Association, claim that it is too risky to publicly back the use of e-cigarettes without knowing how they can affect the user. Not only is it unclear on how the vapour affects the person vaping, but it is also unclear on how the expended vapour affects those around, who are also breathing it in. It's for this reason, a lot of public establishments and public buildings such as shopping centres and bars, have banned the use of e-cigarettes.

Out of the 500 survey participants, only 11.6% of people said that they didn't see vaping as a safer alternative. However, with such a high percentage of people claiming to still be unsure, the amount of people picking up an e-cigarette to quit smoking will definitely be affected.

The NHS and its various subsidiaries around the UK have added e-cigarettes to their respective websites, claiming them as a valid 'stop smoking' aid, however they are yet to actually prescribe e-cigs to patients. With GP's and other medical professionals still uneasy around handing out vape sticks, it's unlikely that they will become the main form of aid to be offered by the NHS. It will therefore take a lot more time and research into the long term health effects, before e-cigarettes become as mainstream as nicotine gum or patches.