A Summary of the E-cigarette Summit US 2017

By Jasmine Khouja

The first E-cigarette Summit US was held in Washington DC on the 8th May 2017. The one-day event brought together researchers, medical professionals and members of industry from all over the US as well as many from the UK (where the organisers have held E-cigarette Summits successfully for the past four years). A review of the safety of e-cigarettes was followed by a review of the regulations that have been proposed in the US. Throughout the day, comparisons were made between the UK and US, particularly in the approaches taken to health messages and regulation of e-cigarettes. In Professor Kenneth Warner’s opening address, he suggested that there are two types of researcher in the field of e-cigarette research: sceptics, who are focussed on potential harm and protecting children regardless of the potential harm reduction for adult smokers, and enthusiasts, who are focussed on potential benefits to public health due to smoking cessation which could outweigh the potential risk to children. By this definition, the majority of researchers who presented evidence appeared to be enthusiasts.

Here are some highlights from the summit:

Evidence Updates

The majority of presentations suggested that previous research has overestimated the health risks of e-cigarettes by using inappropriate methods such as testing the toxicants produced from vaping using temperatures which are not used by vapers. Recently, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and his team have attempted to replicate such findings with maximum temperatures used by vapers and are yet to find evidence that supports the previous findings.

Dual use was also a common theme in the presentations; dual use is the use of e-cigarettes alongside smoking (or other tobacco product use depending on the definition used). However, as Dr Andrea Villanti pointed out, context is key when researching dual use; two people defined as dual users may be extremely different. For example, one dual user may smoke one cigarette a week and vape daily and another may vape once a week and smoke 20 cigarettes a day. With this in mind, Dr Robin Mermelstein’s research focussed on dual users and found that common reasons for using e-cigarettes were using e-cigarettes as a substitute for cigarettes, to cut down their cigarette consumption, to curb their cravings in places they were not allowed to smoke and because they were trying to quit smoking.

Public health

Professor Linda Bauld provided evidence that public health messages can impact the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. In the UK, there is generally a positive stance taken towards the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation among the public health community, however this stance has not been adopted in the US. It was suggested numerous times that consensus among the public health community could help smokers to quit and could help the medical community to provide accurate advice.


New regulations for e-cigarettes are being proposed for the US in the Cole-Bishop proposal. Under these regulations, the e-cigarette market would essentially be frozen, preventing improvements to devices in safety and efficacy according to Deborah Arnott. However, Matthew Myers would disagree and sees flexibility in the FDA regulations which he believes are absolutely necessary.

Overall, the summit was extremely informative and highlighted the need to clearly communicate the findings of well-designed research to the public in order to maximise the potential for reducing smoking rates with use of e-cigarettes.

A Summary of the E-cigarettes Summit 2016

by Jasmine Khouja @jasmine_khouja

On the 17th November I attended the E-cigarette Summit 2016 at the Royal Society in London. The summit brought together researchers, policy-makers, smoking cessation services and industry members to hear about the latest research, developments and challenges in the e-cigarette domain.

The summit was a one-day event packed full of information with 20 fast-paced (10-20 minutes) talks and 4 panel discussions. My five take home points from the summit were:

  1. Communication

One point which was raised on multiple occasions was that good communication of the research into e-cigarettes is key to the public understanding the risks and benefits of e-cigarette use. Unfortunately, the consensus was that the communication of e-cigarette research to the public is poor. Astonishingly, one speaker commented that someone had asked their daughter: “Is your dad still selling e-cigarettes and killing people?” This demonstrates how badly e-cigarettes have been portrayed, despite general consensus that they are much less harmful than cigarettes. Researchers are trying to communicate their research but face hurdles; some journals may be less likely to publish articles that are positive about vaping, meaning that it is harder to publish evidence that vaping is not as bad for you as cigarettes. The media are also hampering researchers’ efforts as they prefer stories which are anti-vaping and sometimes draw inaccurate conclusions from the evidence, which makes for more interesting stories. However, effective communication of the research is possible: Professor Peter Hajek and Dr Alex Freeman provided some useful advice to researchers which included not inferring human risks from animal studies, ensuring risks are directly compared to those of smoking, being a trustworthy source by being competent, honest and reliable, and providing neutral information without recommendations allowing the public to make their own informed decisions.

  1. The British Medical Association’s Guidelines

Communication of the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes isn’t limited to publications and the media; doctors are being asked about e-cigarettes by patients. Despite the evidence that the research community has provided that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, the British Medical Association are yet to update their guidelines to encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes. There seemed to be apprehension stemming from the lack of known long-term effects, despite the fact that we know there are vastly fewer and reduced amounts of toxicants in e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes meaning the likelihood of long-term effects as bad as or worse than smoking are extremely unlikely.

  1. Recent Research

Many new studies were presented but the study that really caught my attention was discussed by Dr Lynne Dawkins. Lynne provided evidence for increased puffing behavior when participants are given lower doses of nicotine in their e-cigarettes [1]. She concluded that inhaling more vapour to receive the same amount of nicotine exposes vapers to unnecessary amounts of toxicants. This is very topical as the regulations set out by the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which will be fully implemented by May 2017 limit doses to 20 mg/mL meaning that some higher dosage (36 mg/mL) users may expose themselves to extra toxicants to receive the levels of nicotine they need when the higher dosage product become unavailable in the next six months.

  1. The Tobacco Products Directive

The TPD provides some form of regulation for e-cigarette manufacturers and distributors. The inclusion of e-cigarettes in the TPD was controversial due to e-cigarettes not containing tobacco and the restrictive nature of the regulations which were seen as unnecessary by some users and industry members. Part of the regulations included the thorough testing of e-cigarette products to ensure they were safe and the publication of the contents (including toxicants) so that the public could make informed decisions. To my dismay, I was informed that the information submitted by the e-cigarette companies so far will not be made publically accessible for roughly six months due to a system error. I was also informed that compliance with the regulations was low and that age of sale restrictions in particular did not seem to be being enforced. The system and enforcement of the TPD in relation to e-cigarettes needs improving so that consumers can access the information which the TPD states they should have access to and to protect young people whose brain development may be adversely affected by consuming nicotine.

  1. New Systems

As restrictive as the TPD is, new products are still being developed. A new type of e-cigarette is emerging onto the market called pods. These devices are small and similar in size to older less effective designs of e-cigarettes (cigalikes) but have the power and nicotine delivery of the newer more effective tank systems. The sleek, compact designs combined with the improved nicotine delivery systems which prevent overheating (which is associated with harmful byproducts such as formaldehyde) are likely to be very popular. These systems can also record information on how the devices are used (how long individuals puff for and how many puffs they take etc.) which could provide essential information to researchers on how e-cigarettes are used in real life situations.

The day culminated in a key note speech by the Attorney General for Iowa, Tom Miller. He commended the UK’s focus on e-cigarette research and the general positive stance our public health officials have taken in terms of e-cigarettes. He concluded his speech by asking for help from the UK to bring the US up to the same standards.


  1. PMID: 27650300

The European Tobacco Products Directive and the future of e-cigarettes in the UK

By Jasmine Khouja @Jasmine_Khouja

E-cigarettes have become a popular product among smokers and ex-smokers, and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimates that there are 2.6 million current users of e-cigarettes in the UK. As an alternative to tobacco smoking, research commissioned by Public Health England estimates that e-cigarettes are likely to be roughly 95% less harmful. The evidence supporting these popular and effective quitting aids suggests that e-cigarettes could be a powerful tool for harm reduction amongst current smokers but there is still uncertainty over the safety of e-cigarettes. Limited research concerning the effects of long-term use and the current lack of strict regulation of the products has fuelled this uncertainty but new regulations have been introduced into the pre-existing European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) to rectify this. The updated TPD will come into force on 20th May 2016 with a transitional period allowed by the TPD. UK e-cigarettes and refill containers which are not in compliance with the TPD will be allowed to be released for sale on the UK market until 20th November 2016, but from 20th May 2017 all products sold to consumers will need to be fully compliant with the TPD. The alternative to following the regulations set by the TPD will be for e-cigarettes to gain a medical licence from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and be regulated as licenced medicinal products to be sold in the UK.

jaz blog

As I am about to commence a PhD investigating the reasons for e-cigarette use, I am interested in what the implications of the directive will be in the UK; will it encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, consequently reducing harm to themselves and others, or will it result in a reduction of available products and cause an increase in relapses to smoking?

I have read the directive and listed some of the key changes that will happen and added my own thoughts on what may happen as a result.

  1. CHANGE: New e-cigarette products must be notified to the MHRA six months before their release to the public. E-cigarette companies will be charged £150 to notify MHRA of a new product and £80 for a modification to an existing product, and will then be charged £60 annually thereafter. POSSIBLE OUTCOMES: The MHRA should have more control over the products on the market and be able to prevent unsafe products entering the market but it may take longer for new products to become available to buy. Additionally, some existing products will be unavailable from 20th May 2017 if they do not to comply with the regulations by 20th November 2016.
  1. CHANGE: Under the TPD, e-liquids will only be allowed where the nicotine concentration does not exceed 20 mg of nicotine per ml of liquid. E-liquids containing more than 20 mg of nicotine per ml of liquid will have to gain a medical licence authorised by the MHRA. POSSIBLE OUTCOMES: People may reduce their doses of nicotine and reduce their addiction if their preferred dosage is no longer available. Fewer high dosage products may be available as gaining a medical licence is an expensive process (estimated between £87,000 and £266,000 annually over ten years for a single device). When current products with high dosages such as 36 mg of nicotine per ml of liquid become unavailable, people may use lower dosages such as 20 mg of nicotine per ml of liquid as a substitute and inhale twice as much vapour to get the same nicotine hit. Nicotine is not the only constituent of vapour though; there are low concentrations of other toxicants, so inhaling more vapour means inhaling more toxicants. Alternatively, current higher dosage users may relapse to tobacco smoking if they feel the lower dosages do not effectively deliver the nicotine hit they need.
  1. CHANGE: Products regulated under the TPD must provide information to the MHRA on the safety and contents of e-cigarette products (including ingredients, toxicants and emissions). Health warnings, instructions for use, information on addictiveness and toxicity must also appear on the packaging and accompanying information leaflet. POSSIBLE OUTCOMES: This should allow e-cigarette users to make informed choices. The notification fees mentioned above will include the storage of this information but the companies may have to bear extra costs in testing their products for the amount of toxicants and emissions produced. These tests will have to comply with the standards set in the TPD and by the MHRA which may prove too costly for smaller e-cigarette companies, forcing them to withdraw products from the market. This could leave the market open to the tobacco industry who generally have greater financial resources available to them. The tobacco industry have to also sustain the tobacco market; a consequence of this may be the deliberate placement of ineffective e-cigarette products on the market to encourage current smokers continue to smoke tobacco and ex-smokers using e-cigarettes relapse.
  1. CHANGE: E-cigarette products will be child-safe, will not break or leak during the refill process, and containers will not exceed 10 ml (refill cartridges will not exceed 2 ml). POSSIBLE OUTCOMES: This should prevent accidents involving children consuming dangerous levels of nicotine. Most changes will be made to newer devices, which require e-liquid refills. If these modifications aren’t made by 20th November 2016 the products will be removed from the market by 20th May 2017.
  1. CHANGE: Under the TPD, cross-border advertising will be banned, which includes in newspapers, radio and TV, but not on billboards and posters. Products will not be allowed to make smoking cessation or health claims. Advertising of products with a medicinal license will be allowed under “over the counter” medicine rules. POSSIBLE OUTCOMES: This should minimise the amount of e-cigarette advertising seen by those who should not use e-cigarettes such as children and non-smokers. However, only e-cigarette companies who can afford a medical licence will be able to advertise on TV and this could mislead people into thinking that these products are more effective than other products.

A possible outcome for many of these changes is the loss of products from the market because of non-compliance with the regulations. Although increased reassurance that e-cigarettes on the market meet certain quality standards may encourage new users, the removal of any e-cigarette product from the market will provide an opportunity for e-cigarette users to relapse to smoking; without their favourite brand or flavour, it may be easier for them to resume smoking again than to find a replacement that suits their needs and taste. This in turn could lead to increased levels of smoking, and therefore harms to both individuals and society as a whole. Additionally, high nicotine dosage e-cigarette users may be encouraged to inhale more vapour and therefore unnecessary amounts of other constituents. However, recent preliminary research findings from ASH UK suggest there are few high dosage users meaning that this should not affect many.

The withdrawal of products is likely to be determined by the cost of making products compliant. Tobacco companies generally have greater financial resources than e-cigarette companies, with the top companies making billions in profit each year, meaning they can afford to make the necessary changes to meet the new regulations. The few e-cigarette companies that are owned by tobacco companies mainly produce ‘cigalikes’ which are the least effective design of e-cigarettes and there is a higher chance of relapsing to smoking when using them compared to later-generation devices. Given that the tobacco-owned e-cigarette companies will probably have greater resources available to them, they could end up with a monopoly on the e-cigarette industry. In fact, this may already be happening; the first medically licensed e-cigarette is a ‘cigalike’ owned by British American Tobacco. This means British American Tobacco could own the only TV-advertised e-cigarette (until another company gains a licence). Consequently, smokers looking to try e-cigarettes may choose less effective devices because they are more widely advertised.

These changes may reassure the general public that the devices will be safe but may lead to many ex-smokers relapsing because they are forced to use e-cigarettes and e-liquids that do not meet their needs, all the while lining the pockets of the tobacco industry by allowing them a monopoly on higher nicotine dosage products. Of course, the possible outcomes stated here are speculative; research will need to be undertaken to evaluate the ongoing impact of the new guidelines.


  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/489981/TPD_Cons_Gov_Response.pdf).
  2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12079130/E-cigarettes-win-first-approval-as-a-medicine-opening-way-for-prescription-by-the-NHS.html
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/regulatory-fees-for-e-cigarettes
  4. http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_1011.pdf
  5. https://nicotinepolicy.net/documents/reports/Impacts%20of%20medicines%20regulation%20-%2020-09-2013.pdf

Photo Credits

http://ecigarettereviewed.com/ – Lindsay Fox

E-cigarettes and teenagers: cause for concern?

By Marcus Munafo @MarcusMunafo 

This blog originally appeared on the Mental Elf site on 20th April 2015


Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a range of products that deliver vapour which typically contains nicotine (although zero-nicotine solutions are available). The name is misleading because some products are mechanical rather than electronic, and because they are not cigarettes. While first-generation products were designed to be visually similar to cigarettes, second- and third-generation products are visually distinctive and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Critically, these products do not contain tobacco, and are therefore intended to deliver nicotine without the harmful constituents of tobacco smoke.

There has been rapid growth in the popularity and use of e-cigarettes in recent years, accompanied by growth in their marketing. At present they are relatively unregulated in many countries, although countries are introducing various restrictions on their availability and marketing. For example, a ban on sales to under-18s will be introduced in England and Wales in 2015.

These products have stimulated considerable (and often highly polarized) debate in the public health community. On the one hand, if they can support smokers in moving away from smoking they have enormous potential to reduce the harms associated with smoking. On the other hand, the quality and efficacy of these products remains largely unknown and is likely to be highly variable, and data on the long-term consequences of their use (e.g., the inhalation of propylene glycol vapour and flavourings) is lacking. There is also a concern that these products may re-normalise smoking, or act as a gateway into smoking.

E-cigarettes and teenagers: a gateway


This study reports the results of a survey conducted by Trading Standards in the North-West of England on 14 to 17 year-old students. The survey focuses on tobacco-related behaviours, and a question on access to e-cigarettes was introduced in 2013. This enabled identification of factors associated with e-cigarette use among people under 18 years old.

The study used data from the 5th Trading Standards North West Alcohol and Tobacco Survey among 14 to 17 year-olds in North-West England, conducted in 2013. The questionnaire was made available to secondary schools across the region through local authority Trading Standards departments, and delivered by teachers during normal school lessons. Compliance was not recorded, and the sample was not intended to be representative but to provide a sample from a range of communities.

The survey consisted of closed, self-completed questions covering sociodemographic variables, alcohol consumption and tobacco use. There were also questions on methods of access to alcohol and tobacco, as well as involvements in violence when drunk. E-cigarette access was assessed by the question “Have you ever tried or purchased e-cigarettes?”.

The study used data from the North West Alcohol and Tobacco Survey, which asked 14 to 17 year-olds lots of questions about their substance use behaviour.


A total of 114 schools participated, and the total dataset included 18,233 participants, of which some were removed for missing data or spoiled questionnaires (e.g., unrealistic answers), so that the final sample for analysis was 16,193. Some of the main findings of the survey included:

  • In total, 19.2% of respondents reported having accessed e-cigarettes, with this being higher in males than females, and increasing with age and socioeconomic deprivation.
  • Level of e-cigarette access was higher among those who had smoked, ranging from 4.9% of never smokers, through 50.7% of ex-smokers, 67.2% of light smokers and 75.8% of heavy smokers.
  • E-cigarette use was associated with alcohol use, with those who drank alcohol more likely to have accessed e-cigarettes than non-drinkers, as well as with smoking by parents/guardians.

Nearly 1 in 5 of the young people surveyed


The authors conclude that their results raise concerns around the access to e-cigarettes by children, particularly among those who have never smoked cigarettes. They argue that their findings suggest that the children who access e-cigarettes are also those most vulnerable to other forms of substance use and risk-taking behavior, and conclude with a call for the “urgent need for controls on e-cigarette sales to children”. The study has some important strengths, most notably its relatively large size, and ability to determine which respondents were living in rich and poor areas.

Understanding the determinants of e-cigarette use, and patterns of use across different sections of society, is important to inform the ongoing debate around their potential benefits and harms. However, it is also not clear what this study tells us that was not already known. The results are consistent with previous, larger surveys, which show that young people (mostly smokers) are trying e-cigarettes. Critically, these previous surveys have shown that while some young non-smokers are experimenting with electronic cigarettes, progression to regular use among this group is rare. Product labels already indicate that electronic cigarettes are not for sale to under-18s, and in 2014 the UK government indicated that legislation will be brought forward to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to under-18s in England and Wales (although at present no such commitment has been made in Scotland).

This study does not add anything significant to our knowledge about e-cigarettes.


There are a number of important limitations to this study:

  • As the authors acknowledge, this was not meant to be a representative survey, and the results can therefore not be generalized to the rest of the north-west of England, let alone the wider UK.
  • As a cross-sectional survey it was not able to follow up individual respondents, for example to determine whether never smokers using e-cigarettes progress to smoking. This problem is common to most e-cigarette surveys to date.
  • The question asked does not tell us whether the participants actually used the e-cigarette they accessed, or what liquid was purchased with the e-cigarette (e.g., the concentration of nicotine). Zero-nicotine solutions are available, and there is evidence that these solutions are widely used by young people.
  • The results are presented confusingly, with numerous percentages (and percentages of percentages) reported. For example, 4.9% of never smokers reported having accessed e-cigarettes, but this is less than 3% of the overall sample (fewer than 500 out of 16,193 respondents). This is potentially an important number to know, but is not reported directly in the article.


This study does not add much to what is already known. Young people experiment with substances like tobacco and alcohol, and as e-cigarettes have become widely available they have begun to experiment with these too. However, to describe electronic cigarette use as “a new drug use option” and part of “at-risk teenagers’ substance using repertoires” is probably unnecessarily alarmist, given that:

  1. There is evidence that regular use of e-cigarettes among never smokers is negligible
  2. There is little evidence of e-cigarette use acting as a gateway to tobacco use
  3. The likelihood that e-cigarette use will be associated with very low levels of harm

It's alarmist to suggest


Primary reference

Huges K, Bellis MA, Hardcastle KA, McHale P, Bennett A, Ireland R, Pike K. Associations between e-cigarette access and smoking and drinking behaviours in teenagers. BMC Public Health 2015; 15: 244. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1618-4

Other references

Young Persons Alcohol and Tobacco Survey 2013. Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards.

Diary of a dependent smoker: The e-cigarette experience

This blog post reflects the author’s personal experience.

Day 1. Saturday 28th September 2013, 1.21pm. Inadvertent quit date.

It didn’t cross my mind for a second that this would be my last cigarette. Whilst I’d been away at a (tobacco control) conference, my husband had, out of the blue, decided to invest in an e-cigarette. That was four days ago. He hasn’t had a cigarette since. So, today, I decided to finally invest. I’m a pretty heavy smoker (~25 per day), and have been for about eight years (I appreciate the irony of this, having devoted five years of my life to the study of tobacco dependence). Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to fly long-haul with me will testify just how horrendous I am to be around without tobacco. Ditto my colleagues who’ve experienced my wrath after enlisting me as guinea pig in any experiment involving overnight abstinence. Anyway, I digress. I visited a local store dedicated to the sale of e-cigarettes (‘e-cigs’). Now I’m pretty au fait with the literature on these things. I had lots of questions (mainly relating to vapour composition and actual nicotine delivery), to which I didn’t really receive any satisfactory answers (the general public must not press with such line of questioning – they offered me a job in the store!). But I did learn a lot about the mechanics of these things, and tried out a lot of flavours. Seriously, you have a lot of options! I tried cherry, apple, mango, kiwi, very berry, raspberry, candy floss, blueberry, cherry cola, grape, and barely scratched the surface. There’s also an extensive range of tobacco flavours, dessert flavours (cheesecake anyone?!), rum, beer (?!); the list goes on… I was pretty stunned at the variety. But, in the end, I settled for blueberry and cherry cola. These flavoured nicotine solutions come in several strengths. I was advised, as a 25 cigarette per day smoker, to go for the 18mg mix. So, e-cig ‘starter pack’ in hand [pic], I carried on running my Saturday errands. Three hours later, I suddenly realised I hadn’t had (or wanted) a real cigarette. Now, honestly, it was not my intention to give up smoking. I was just curious (from both a personal and professional perspective) and thought this device might be a useful travel aid. But hey, why not see how long I could run with this? My husband was doing incredibly well so far, so why shouldn’t I try too. So how was I feeling at this point? A little restless. My throat was a little sore. But I wasn’t feeling irritable. I’ve tried giving up before. Nicotine gum, inhalator, bupropion – on all of these, giving up smoking had taken over my ENTIRE LIFE. Cigarettes were always on my mind. Today, that hasn’t been the case. But I have felt like something has been missing. For some reason I’ve been craving the scratch of metal on flint (my trusty clipper, a.k.a. conditioned reinforcer). ‘Smoking’ inside has been a novelty though. I guess I’ve been enjoying the novelty of it all. The cravings kicked in in force after dinner, but a 15 minute ‘vaping’ session helped check them. And yet I didn’t feel totally satisfied… A night in, watching back-to-back episodes of ‘24’, kept me suitably distracted and on track though. Oh, and I downloaded a stop smoking app to keep track of my progress – more on that tomorrow…



Day 2. Sunday 29th September 2013.

I knew this was going to be hard. The first cigarette of the morning has always been my favourite. For eight years, the first thing I’ve done every morning, without fail, is roll out of bed, head down to the kitchen to roll a cigarette, and sit out in the garden to smoke. That was all I could think about when I woke up. So, this morning, I went out and sat in exactly the same place, and spent 10 minutes vaping. It wasn’t the same, but it helped. I spent almost half of my morning puffing away on that thing (I’m curious to know what my total daily inhalation volume is). I’ve also been really hungry today. We decided to head down to the pub to treat ourselves to a Sunday roast. This was going to be hard – two glasses of wine and a big lunch. We sat out in the garden for half an hour afterwards. That thing was glued to my mouth. But I didn’t crack. When we got home I ended up taking a four hour ‘nap’ (I should add, my sleep has been pretty irregular, and I’ve been having very lucid dreams). I woke up with a dry mouth (again, that’s becoming a pretty regular feature), and a deep sense of incompleteness. More vaping. I’m writing at 11.24pm, and my stop smoking app informs me of the following:

Time since last cigarette:   1 d 10 h 03 mins

Money saved: £7.98

Not smoked: 35.48 cigarettes

Time saved: 0 d 3 h 32 mins


Day 3. Monday 30th September. Hell hath no fury like a girl without cherry cola flavoured nicotine.

Today has been the hardest day to date. I woke up, after a disturbed night’s sleep, from a particularly violent and lucid dream, with a painfully dry mouth. Reaching for an (empty) glass of water, I noticed the time. ****. I was horribly late for work (read: I have a meeting in 20 minutes and even if I jump straight into the car now I’ll still be late). Thirsty, flustered, and desperate for a cigarette, I flew into a whirlwind, got ready in 25 minutes (a record), and leapt into the car, ready to vape the hell out of that magic stick. However, two deep breaths in, the battery dies on me. Damn. I’m already 40 minutes late at this point. I get to work, park up, and run to the supermarket round the corner. I’ve devoted way too much effort to this cause to give up now. So instead of buying tobacco (the cheaper option by the way), I invested in a disposable e-cigarette. Now this model is very different to the one I’ve been using. It actually looks like a cigarette (see pic). No charging and no refilling needed. So I tear open the packet and start puffing away whilst running into work. It tasted DISGUSTING. I forgot to add, this e-cig was tobacco flavoured, not the fruity concoction I’m starting to grow used to (is cherry cola becoming a new conditioned reinforcer for me?!). I think this was the first time it hit me that my sense of taste had returned in force. Anyway, this hit the spot. Despite the vile taste in my mouth.


A day of data analysis ensues. I have a growing sense of unfulfilment. By 5pm I am in a terrible mood – irritable, hungry, restless. Driving home, my new e-cig, supposedly equivalent to 20 cigarettes, containing an advertised 16mg of nicotine, starts tauntingly flashing at me, before promptly giving up the ghost. At this point I should highlight that I’ve been going through about 2.5ml a day of a solution that contains 18mg nicotine per 10ml bottle. Now, I haven’t been keeping tabs on my circulating nicotine and cotinine levels (I should have been), but a moment of grumpy mental arithmetic en route home tells me something is amiss here. If the advertised nicotine content is correct, then the actual nicotine delivery of these things must wildly fluctuate across models (we know this to be true). So anyway, I get home, disproportionately angry that my husband hasn’t bought baked beans, and spend the next 15 minutes glued to his (cotton candy flavoured) e-cig while mine charges. At the shop (buying beans), I feel a quiet satisfaction in not adding a pouch of tobacco to my basket at the counter. It’s now 7.26pm:

Time since last cigarette:   2 d 6 h 05 mins

Money saved: £12.68

Not smoked: 56.35 cigarettes

Time saved: 0 d 5 h 38 mins

Day 4. Tuesday 1st October.

Nothing much to report today, other than generally feeling a bit tetchy and low, for no real reason. That’s new I guess. And my throat is still a bit sore. Night.

Day 5. Wednesday 2nd October.

So today I passed the 100 cigarettes not smoked mark. That feels pretty damn good! This morning also marked the first morning to date that I’ve woken up and haven’t been desperate for a cigarette. I still wanted one, but I didn’t feel like I needed one. And that is a big deal, at least to me. I also managed to resist the urge following a night out with friends, despite a lot of curry and a lot of wine. Jen 1, tobacco 0.

Day 6. Thursday 3rd October.

I think I’m getting used to this now. I also realised that I’m not so reliant on my e-cigarette anymore. I mean, I’m still using it a lot, and definitely devoting more time to it than I ever did with cigarettes, but it’s not permanently glued to my mouth today. I did have one particularly big craving to smoke today after an argument on the phone – definitely the biggest craving since day one. But that soon passed. I think the increasing brevity of these posts stands testament to the fact that this is getting easier. It’s now 9.25pm:

Time since last cigarette:   5 d 8 h 04 mins

Money saved: £30.02

Not smoked: 133.40 cigarettes

Time saved: 0 d 13 h 20 mins

Day 7. Friday 4th October.

I encountered my first bar tonight that prohibits e-cigarette use. I asked why this was and was informed that “people get very drunk and we’re worried that people might see other people smoking e-cigarettes and think it’s ok to smoke real cigarettes inside too”. Hmm…

Day 8. Saturday 5th October.

My throat is KILLING me. I was genuinely in agony when I woke up this morning. My teeth have been hurting a lot too. They’ve been pretty sensitive since I had them bleached a couple of years ago, but the pain has flared up in style recently. Coincidence perhaps? Obviously association does not imply causation, but, the vapour is very sweet tasting – need to check which sweeteners are used in that nicotine solution… By the way, today marks one entire week tobacco free! It’s 12.21pm.

Time since last cigarette:   6 d 23 h 01 mins

Money saved: £39.15

Not smoked: 173.99 cigarettes

Time saved: 0 d 17 h 23 mins

Day 10. Monday 7th October.

So my teeth feel fine again now. But for the last couple of days I’ve really had a sore throat – so sore that I’ve been putting off using my e-cig until I’m literally desperate for nicotine. And my nose has been running, constantly. I’m not sure if this is just my airways clearing themselves, a side effect of the e-cig, or just a cold. Whichever it is, I decided to try and remedy it by really heavily cutting back on my vaping today, and to patch up the withdrawal with nicotine lozenges. That actually seems to be working pretty well. Let’s see how the throat fares tomorrow… It’s 8.55pm:

Time since last cigarette:   9 d 07 h 34 mins

Money saved: £52.40

Not smoked: 232.89 cigarettes

Time saved: 0 d 23 h 17 mins

Day 12. Wednesday 9th October

My throat feels fine. However, my e-cig is a long way from fine. In fact, it tastes like burnt metal. I’m no expert on these things, but from what I can tell the heating element has burnt out. I was told this would only need to be replaced every two months, but I guess I’ve been using it a lot, particularly during week one. Anyway, this means I ended up stuck at work without any withdrawal soothing vapour. But I did have a pack of nicotine lozenges on hand as back up, and you know what? I actually did pretty well on those today. And I have a back up mouthpiece at home, so life is good.

Day 13. Thursday 10th October

Absolutely nothing to report today, other than passing the ‘1 day of my life saved’ milestone (Fun fact: Adults between the ages of 25 and 34 years who quit smoking gain around 10 years of life compared to those who continue to smoke! More info here). Oh, and I’ve just read back through this blog for the first time. It feels pretty good to have come this far! It’s now 11.11pm.

Time since last cigarette:   12 d 09 h 50 mins

Money saved: £69.81

Not smoked: 310.26 cigarettes

Time saved: 1 d 07 h 01 mins

Day 16. Sunday 13th October.

I feel like I’ve spent a lot of this blog complaining about my teeth. But I have to mention it again, because I’ve started to notice a trend – they only seem to start hurting when I’m using the Cherry Cola flavour solution. No problems with Blueberry. There’s no information as to exactly what ‘flavourings’ consist of in these solutions on the company website. I’m going to dig deeper on this. Also, another observation: I seem to be much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol since quitting smoking. Two glasses of wine really have been knocking me for six. Anecdotal evidence, of course, although my husband has independently also made the same connection. Is there any research into this?! A five minute literature search does indeed suggest that nicotine decreases blood alcohol concentration! Surely this information needs to be publicised more widely for clear safety reasons… It’s 10.19pm:

Time since last cigarette:   15 d 08 h 58 mins

Money saved: £86.48

Not smoked: 384.35 cigarettes

Time saved: 1 d 14 h 26 mins

Day 19. Wednesday 16th October.

Why do I always leave it to the last minute to pack for holiday?! Super quick update today. It’s 12.29am:

Time since last cigarette:   18 d 11 h 21 mins

Money saved: £103.86

Not smoked: 461.62 cigarettes

Time saved: 1 d 22 h 09 mins

Day 20. Thursday 17th October.

HOLIDAY! Operation mini-break is go. I’m currently sitting at the airport. For some reason, I am DESPERATE for a cigarette right now – more so than I have been all week. I’m pinning this to one of two reasons: 1) I actually can’t have a cigarette right now (rather than just choosing not to); or 2) Whenever I’m at an airport I’m always in some growing state of nicotine withdrawal, and now my surroundings are basically acting as cues to provoke the deep state of unrest with which they’ve become associated. Possibly both. Plus I’m drinking coffee, which always makes me want to smoke.

Day 34. Thursday 31st October.

Woah. It’s been a REALLY long time since my last entry. I’ve been meaning to squeeze in an update for ages but a back-to-back holiday, business trip, and unexpected stint in hospital have all gotten in the way (incidentally, not having to drag a drip outside every hour for a smoke has definitely been an unexpected bonus to quitting). So…update. And this is going to be my final entry, as I only planned to keep this diary going until the 1 month mark.

Today marks my 34th day smoke-free. I am genuinely feeling pretty proud of myself, given that the longest I’ve gone without tobacco in the last eight years is a little under 24 hours. It hasn’t been easy. There have definitely been times when I’ve been desperate for a cigarette. And I have begged friends for a drag whilst out (they refused, for which I was grateful, at least the next morning). However, I have not (yet) slipped at all, which is pretty great considering I never even intended on quitting in the first place.

I also wanted to sum up on my experiences of quitting using an e-cigarette. Firstly, I should make it clear that I almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to quit without these. As I said in one of my first entries, I have tried a LOT of different cessation methods before, and failed royally with each every time. However, I also have some concerns. Before starting this experiment, I felt quite strongly that these products shouldn’t come under MHRA regulation. Why should products which seem to be proving to be so helpful in getting people off cigarettes be regulated more tightly than cigarettes themselves? However, over the course of the last month it has become very clear that some regulation of e-cigarettes is certainly warranted. There is a huge degree of variability between brands and models, for example, in terms of actual nicotine delivery. I have also experienced a number of negative symptoms which have coincided with the use of these products. These have ranged from the relatively minor (e.g., dry mouth, sore throat, and tooth ache, as discussed), to the more serious (e.g., coughing up bloody phlegm, as I rather worryingly experienced last night). All in all, however, I really am in favour of these devices. But for now, I think I’ll be switching to nicotine lozenges. It’s 3pm. My final stats are:

Time since last cigarette:   33 d 02 h 39 mins

Money saved: £186.25

Not smoked: 827.78 cigarettes

Time saved: 3 d 10 h 47 mins

P.s. If you’re interested in learning more about e-cigarettes, you might want to check out this briefing, recently released by Action on Smoking and Health.

This article is posted by Jen Ware