Smoking tobacco is very harmful to health. The short and long term effects of smoking are well known and smoking remains the single biggest cause of early death in Northern Ireland. A typical smoker dies 10-15 years earlier than they would do if they didn’t smoke.
E-cigarettes are a type of nicotine replacement product. The latest report from Public Health England suggests they are less harmful to health than smoking, but the short and long-term effects of using e-cigarettes – “vaping” – are not yet known. E-cigarettes contain nicotine as they are mostly designed to help smokers to stop smoking by replacing the nicotine in tobacco-based cigarettes. At this point, for smokers, e-cigarettes appear to be a safer option than smoking, but they are not regulated or licensed. They are therefore not as safe as established nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine patches and gum which are tightly controlled for product quality and safety. In non-smokers, e-cigarettes may create a nicotine addiction.
The safest option for people who have never smoked, or ex-smokers, is to not use e-cigarettes or tobacco-based cigarettes – don’t smoke and don’t vape.
In summary, the safest option for your health is to not smoke tobacco products at all. If you do smoke, keep trying to stop. The safest and most effective way to stop is with the support of a stop smoking service who can provide regulated, licensed nicotine replacement therapy. If you choose to use e-cigarettes as a means of stopping smoking, we would advise that you seek the support of a stop smoking service. You may want to try stopping on your own and while many people succeed, you are four times more likely to quit for good if you get support from a stop smoking service – details of your local service and other information can be found at www.want2stop.info If you don’t smoke or vape, keep it that way – don’t start and don’t let your children start.
Notes to the editor
In Northern Ireland there are more than 650 free stop smoking services which are run by specially-trained staff who can advise on the best way to stop smoking. Services are offered in many community pharmacies, GP practices, HSC Trust premises, and community and voluntary organisations, and can be set up in workplaces.
For more information on the services available and useful tips to stop smoking, visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info where you can also order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge which will help you plan your quit attempt.