When someone is using an e-cigarette it looks very like a cigarette and it is a method some people are using to try and stop smoking. However, the product is not regulated within the UK and children can currently purchase them.

E-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems and are becoming more and more popular. They are battery-powered and are designed to look like an actual cigarette. They have a cartridge which contains liquid nicotine, a heating element (atomiser) and it has a rechargeable battery. The e-cigarette turns nicotine, other chemicals and flavour into a vapour which can be seen. The vapour can have a distinctive smell and research is needed to find out potential effects to others in the vicinity of an e-cigarette user.

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) has said that there has been an increase of people using e-cigarettes from 3% in 2010 to 7% in 2012. The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) will be publishing its findings next month and they may consider reclassification of e-cigarettes as medicines.

The BMA (British Medical Association) believes the current smoke free legislation in place in the UK should be extended to include vapour from e-cigarettes. The BMA would like to encourage employers to implement organisation-wide policies prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in their workplaces.
There is currently no legislation to restrict them at work or in public places and whilst it is a useful smoking cessation product for some, it should be part of the Smoking Policy within organisations. Until there is clear guidance on the use of e-cigarettes, they should be treated as cigarettes in the meantime in all public places.
Dr Jean King, Cancer Research UK‘s Director of Tobacco Control, said that there had been little research into how safe e-cigarettes actually are. "There’s also very little regulation to control these products or their marketing. The only way to be sure of any risks or benefits is through rigorous testing", she added. She also advised that anyone trying to quit smoking should use medicinal nicotine products such as patches, gum or inhalators, because these have been tested and found to be safe and effective.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) have been asked by the Department of Health to develop public health guidance on the use of tobacco harm reduction approaches to smoking cessation which includes the use of e-cigarettes. Some of the questions they have been asked are: What other components are present in the nicotine solution used in the device; do these represent risks to the user? Are any harmful chemicals released when the nicotine solution is heated?
The MHRA findings will be available shortly as well as guidance from NICE.
Jessica Smyrl is founder of YSM Solutions – devloping wellbeing solutions that work