BIG DEBATE: E-cigarettes - a better option or a health risk?

PUBLISHED: 09:44 01 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:44 01 October 2014

E-cigarettes - friend or foe?

E-cigarettes - friend or foe?


The popularity of e-cigarettes has soared since they were first introduced to the UK about a decade ago, with current estimates suggesting that there are 2.1 million users in Great Britain alone.

However, with their associated health risks in question and the World Health Organisation recently calling for their use to be banned in public places and workplaces, are e-cigarettes a good thing?

Dr Lynne Dawkins, an experimental psychologist at the University of East London, writes in support

Dr Lynne Dawkins thinks e-cigarettes can be positive Dr Lynne Dawkins thinks e-cigarettes can be positive


Cigarette smoking kills. 82,000 people die every year from their effects in England alone. But the burning question now is, ‘are e-cigarettes a better alternative?’

Before answering this, there are two other questions we must consider first.

Firstly, do e-cigs help cigarette smokers give up?

Research from a survey conducted at the University of East London by Dawkins and colleagues revealed that the overwhelming majority reported using the devices as a way of kicking the habit altogether.

The findings, which were published in the journal Addiction, show that nearly 75 per cent of respondents started using e-cigarettes as a complete alternative to smoking.

In one of the most significant findings, 86 pc of those surveyed confirmed they had not smoked cigarettes for several weeks or months since using the e-cigarette, and the majority of people felt their health had improved since using the devices. More recently, in a survey of smokers in England, Brown and colleagues reported that smokers using e-cigarettes were more likely to have quit smoking than those using traditional nicotine replacement therapies (20 pc vs. 10 pc).

Secondly, are e-cigs free from health risks?

E-cigarettes may not be absolutely safe for the user, but they are definitely a far less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

And regarding the effects of the vapour on bystanders there is currently no evidence of harm associated with e-cigarette fumes to on-lookers although this requires continuous monitoring. An extensive review of the effects of toxicants in e-cigarette vapour published this year concluded that the risks of e-cigarettes to the user are very low, and exposure to those nearby is even lower and “thus pose no apparent concern”.

Whilst ingesting nicotine could not be described as a ‘healthy’ activity, the safety issues associated with e-cigarettes tend to be exaggerated. The effects of overly harsh regulation could actually do more harm than good, if it discourages smokers from switching from a less harmful activity.


Frances Clarke, health project manager for Community Links, tells of her concerns:


I am concerned about the young children I see in the street smoking e-cigarettes and shisha pens.

As a health worker for Community Links I spend time in schools and sixth forms talking about the serious health risks of smoking.

Eighty per cent of people who get lung cancer smoke.

The process of smoking, or vaping as it is called, is different in e-cigarettes, and they do not contain many of the chemicals that ordinary cigarettes do.

But, they can contain nicotine and it is the nicotine that is addictive.

I am worried that e-cigarettes are going to trap children and young people into nicotine addiction which will lead them onto smoking tobacco.

If a young person does not smoke by the age of 20, they are very unlikely to smoke.

These young years are the vital ones, if we start smoking young, it is so difficult to give up.

Shisha pens, or e-shisha, are a portable version of shisha smoking which is widespread in east London.

The risks of shisha are not widely known, people describe it as a healthy way to socialise. It is not.

Each shisha session lasts from 20 to 60 minutes and is equivalent to 50 to 150 cigarette puffs.

Encouraging children to gain this habit is potentially very harmful.

E-cigarettes and e-shisha are widely available to children, there are currently no age restrictions, they can be bought in most local shops.

They are affordable, in attractive colours and sometimes have a pretty scent.

The tobacco companies are producing many of these products, is this a goodwill gesture to help smokers quit?

Or is it that these companies are actively searching for new markets?

Undoubtedly, with the reduction in numbers of smokers they are keen to recruit new young smokers who will be their customers for years if not for life.

If you would like to volunteer to raise awareness of cancer locally please contact me by emailing

Latest East London News Stories

Yesterday, 08:00

Letters, contributions and comments sent in to the Advertiser this week.

Reports of the recent rise of violent crime in London have been deeply concerning.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

This year’s Virgin Money London Marathon follows the usual route from Greenwich Park to the Mall.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

High achievers from London and Essex were rewarded for their hard work with a lesson in rowing on the Royal Docks yesterday.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our three-minute Met Office video forecast.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Richard Horwood is hoping the open election meeting he is chairing on Tuesday for candidates running for Tower Hamlets mayor doesn’t turn into a disaster where they can’t answer questions about the vital Isle of Dogs’ upcoming Neighbourhood Plan.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Two teenage girls who have been missing from a seaside village for a week could be in Tower Hamlets, police believe.

Friday, April 20, 2018

A four-day festival of baul and vaishnav music returns to Tower Hamlets.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now