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Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking

Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking

John Boughey |

Last fact-checked 16 April 2024

All around the UK, millions of smokers use e-cigarettes to manage cravings and wean themselves off cigarettes for good. But what’s the official UK guidance on using a vape device to quit tobacco? What are the risks, and how can you improve your chances of quitting? 

In this quitter’s guide to vapes, we’ll explain how to use e-cigarettes to help you quit tobacco. We'll show you where to start, what pitfalls to avoid and what to expect when swapping cigarettes for vapes. 

Safety note: don’t smoke and vape

First off, there’s one very important point we have to make. When you use a vape to help you quit smoking, you have to stop smoking at the same time. 

The NHS say “You will not get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely" (source: If you continue to smoke while vaping, you miss out on the health benefits of stopping tobacco. You complicate the quitting process, and you run the risk of becoming a smoker and a vaper, which is not a helpful situation when you’re trying to quit cigarettes. 

Which is worse: smoking or vaping?

There’s no question that smoking is much worse than vaping. Smoking is much worse than most legal activities — it causes 1 death in England every 8 minutes (source:

What’s less clear is precisely how safe vaping is in relation to smoking. Vaping is still a relatively new phenomenon, and there aren’t as many long-term or large-scale medical studies on vaping as there have been with cigarettes.

The official guidance from Public Health England is that "vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking" (source: 

How addictive is nicotine? 

Nicotine is as addictive as ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin. That’s a direct quote from Professor John Moxham in the BMJ (source: 

It’s a shocking comparison, but we have to remember it. Quitting tobacco is hard because quitting nicotine is hard. 

Nicotine “alters the balance” of two naturally occurring hormones (dopamine and noradrenaline) in your brain. That’s why, when you smoke a cigarette, your mood and concentration levels change so rapidly -- it's a hormone spike. When you quit, those hormone levels fall out of balance again. You can get irritable, anxious and depressed because your brain isn’t getting its usual rush of hormones, and it has to figure out how to operate without its expected hit of nicotine (source: This can all take time to balance out, and it makes sense to slowly wean yourself off nicotine. We have some advice on nicotine weaning which you might find helpful.

Nicotine is an addictive substance, but it’s nowhere near as toxic as the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous ingredients in a typical cigarette. The NHS promote and encourage Nicotine Replacement Therapy because if your body is suffering from nicotine withdrawal then the temptation to have another cigarette is going to be very strong.

You can learn more about nicotine cravings and NRT on the NHS website at the link below:

How can vaping help you break your addiction? 

E-cigarettes work so well as a quitting tool because they give vapers the familiar sensation of smoking whilst delivering the nicotine their bodies are craving. 

Vaping works best when it’s combined with the support of a Stop Smoking counsellor. Just take a look at the stats below:

Some official statements (including the BMJ report) put a tobacco quitter’s chances of success using just willpower alone as low as 2%. You need to improve those odds as much as possible, and the NHS Stop Smoking Service is an absolutely critical part of that. Nicotine is a powerful substance, and if you want to quit, you need to do what you can to stack the odds in your favour. The NHS Stop Smoking Service is there to help you, and you can get patches and other NRT treatments on prescription.

In summary…

The biggest benefit of vaping, when used as a quitting tool, is its closeness to the sensation of smoking. When you use a vape instead of a cigarette, you get the familiar cloud and the nicotine hit of a cigarette, but none of the lethal tar and carbon monoxide. 

Vaping worked for us, and it can work for you too. Talk to your NHS Stop Smoking Service if you’re starting your quitting journey. You won't regret it.

- John Boughey


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