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Can E-Cigarettes Really Help People to Quit Smoking?

Although smoking rates in England are in long-term decline, tobacco use remains one of the country’s major public health challenges. Over recent years, e-cigarettes have risen in popularity to become the number one quitting aid used by smokers (1).

The question is whether e-cigarettes actually help people to quit smoking. There are many nicotine replacement therapy (NRC) products (such as nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray and lozenges) on the market. The purpose of these products is to provide a source of nicotine to the user which is delivered in a much safer way than through burning tobacco. The advantage the e-cigarette has over some of these methods is the similar way to smoking a cigarette that the nicotine is delivered: through inhalation and hence a quick release into the bloodstream.   Hon Lik, the Chinese pharmacist who developed and patented the first e-cigarette was motivated because he was trying to quit smoking and found nicotine patches ineffectual. He wanted to develop something which delivered nicotine in a similar way to smoking and hence resulted in the same satisfying ‘punch’ of nicotine a user gets through inhalation (2). 

The second advantage that e-cigarettes have over more traditional forms of NRT is that they capture the essence of the smoking experience through the look, feel and use of the product. This makes it easier for a smoker to make the transition from smoking a cigarette to the use of an e-cigarette. After all, smoking is an experience that the user enjoys, as well as being merely a method of delivering nicotine: the hand held use of the e-cigarette, the inhalation of the product, the vaping clouds produced all mimic the smoking experience. Public Health England’s ambition is to secure a tobacco-free generation by 2025 and, based on the evidence, they believe e-cigarettes have the potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco (3). 

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1,3 Public Health Commission Report: ‘E-cigarettes: a new foundation for evidence-based policy and practice

2 Motherboard:‘We Asked the Inventor of the E-Cigarette What He Thinks About Vape Regulations

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