Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking

Over recent years, e-cigarettes have become a very popular stop smoking aid in the UK. Evidence is still developing on how effective they are, but many people have found them helpful for quitting.

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows you to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking.

E-cigarettes work by heating and creating a vapour from a solution that typically contains nicotine; a thick, colourless liquid called propylene glycol and/or glycerine; and flavourings. As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke.

E-cigarettes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide  two of the main toxins in conventional cigarette smoke. The vapour from e-cigarettes has been found to contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

Benefits and risks of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are still fairly new and we won’t have a full picture on their safety until they have been in use for many years. However, on current evidence, they carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes and they can help you stop smoking.

If you want to use an e-cigarette to help you quit, you’ll give yourself the best chance if you get expert support from your local NHS stop smoking service. 

Find your nearest NHS stop smoking service from the NHS Smokefree website, or call the Smokefree National Helpline to speak to a trained adviser on 0300 123 1044.

In the year up to April 2015, two out of three people who used e-cigarettes in combination with the NHS stop smoking service quit smoking successfully.

Different things work for different people and, particularly if you’ve already tried other methods of quitting smoking without success, you might want to give e-cigarettes a go.

Read more about stopping smoking using e-cigarettes.

Reporting safety concerns

It's important that any e-cigarette safety concerns are reported and monitored.

There are two types of safety concern associated with e-cigarettes:

  • a fault with the e-cigarette device that could make it unsafe to use
  • side effects to your health caused by using your e-cigarette

You can report any safety concern regarding your e-cigarette through the Yellow Card Scheme.

E-cigarettes on prescription

Currently, there are no e-cigarettes on the market that are licensed as medicines, meaning they are not available on prescription from the NHS. 

Once medicinally licensed e-cigarette products come onto the market, GPs and stop smoking services will be able to prescribe them alongside other stop smoking medicines.

Read about other stop smoking treatments.

Page last reviewed: 22/12/2015

Next review due: 22/12/2017

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Stop smoking

Help with quitting, including what your GP can do, local services and nicotine replacement therapies