Do electronic cigarettes really help you quit smoking?
By hearing contradictory speeches, we no longer understand anything. So, are e-cigarettes really an effective aid for quitting smoking? Yes or no, is vaping better for your health than smoking? Answers from a tobacco specialist and an epidemiologist.

In 2022, 7.3% of 18-75 year olds reported vaping , including 5.5% daily, according to the latest figures from Santé Publique France (source 1). In just a few years, smokers have adopted e-cigarettes as another means of quitting smoking . However, in a July 2019 report, the World Health Organization (WHO) criticized electronic cigarettes for being “unquestionably harmful”. So, what should we think about it?

Electronic cigarettes increase our chances of quitting smoking

It is an effective cessation aid, even if it is not a health device, says Dr. Marion Adler, tobacco specialist. Today, it is the method that people use and appreciate the most. 

A recent study shows a quit rate of 35% at 6 months, and another 18% abstinence at 1 year among electronic cigarette users ( New England Journal of Medicine , 2019). On average, it increases the chances of quitting by more than half (50 to 60%).

It is more effective than nicotine substitutes

According to the Cochrane review, updated in early 2024, which analyzes the results of 88 studies, people combining e-cigarettes with nicotine are more likely to quit smoking  than those using nicotine substitutes . The quit rate at 6 months is in fact higher: for every 100 smokers, 4 more managed to quit using electronic cigarettes compared to substitutes.

However, you should not hesitate to use both, especially at the beginning. Dr. Marion Adler

And use an e-liquid with a sufficient dose of nicotine to quickly make the desire to smoke go away. We then try to reduce the frequency of vaping, then the dosage of nicotine in stages, as soon as the desire is less strong.


For the bronchi, it is much less harmful than tobacco

The electronic cigarette does not contain tar or carbon monoxide.

However, it is these substances emitted by the combustion of tobacco which cause the vast majority of cardiovascular and respiratory pathologies in smokers, not nicotine, recalls Professor Antoine Flahault, epidemiologist.

In 2020, an in vitro study showed that bronchial cells exposed to the equivalent of 120 puffs of an electronic cigarette remained viable, while half died after 2 puffs of a cigarette. However, steam inhalation is not recommended for non-smokers. “But for smokers, it is infinitely better to vape than to continue smoking,” says Dr. Adler.

We are talking here about the classic electronic cigarette, with e-liquid, not heating tobacco devices, which emit more toxic compounds.

It contains fewer carcinogenic toxins than cigarettes

Cigarette smoke contains 70 established carcinogens: benzene, arsenic, chromium, etc. According to an analysis by the Pasteur Institute (2021), electronic cigarette aerosols contain 99% less toxic substances . Some studies suggest an increased risk of ENT cancer with prolonged use of e-cigarettes, but this remains much lower than that linked to tobacco.

No, electronic cigarettes do not promote heart attacks

In 2019, a study suggesting an increased risk of heart attacks among vapers caused concern. It has since been removed from the Journal of the American Heart Association because its results were biased: most of the participants had already suffered a heart attack.

When you stop smoking, the cardiovascular risk continues to exist, but it does not increase because you switch to electronic cigarettes. Dr. Adler

On the contrary, thanks to it, we protect our heart and our vessels

Using e-cigarettes and quitting smoking is accompanied by a rapid improvement in the health of blood vessels, and in particular a reduction in their rigidity, which promotes high blood pressure, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2019. Another, published in 2022 ( Journal of the American Heart Association ), mentions a risk of cardiovascular disease reduced by 30 to 40% compared to smokers, even if more studies are needed to long term to confirm its impact.

It's better for your health, even if you vape for several years

80% of former smokers are still using e-cigarettes after a year. “The same criticism has been made of former smokers who chewed gum for years, but it is infinitely better than going back to tobacco,” says Dr. Adler, who advises using it until you no longer feel like smoking. smoke at all.

Even if we only have ten years of experience, it is not certain that the duration of vaping will ever represent a real public health concern. Professor Flahault

To make it easier to do without it, Dr. Adler recommends only vaping in places and circumstances where you would have smoked before.

No, electronic cigarettes do not encourage young people to smoke

The World Health Organization is alarmed by the increase in vaping among minors, fearing possible nicotine addiction and negative effects on brain development. This is why puffs, disposable electronic cigarettes which target young people, should soon be banned in France. “However, no study shows a gateway effect, as has been feared: electronic cigarettes do not lead to smoking  ,” concludes Professor Flahault.

On the contrary, studies show that vaping is a competitor to cigarettes, not a gateway. Dr. Adler

Only 2.8% of French high school students vape on a daily basis even though 52% have already tried ( EnClass , 2018).