Kate Moss is a fanatic, as is Leonardo DiCaprio. With the estimated seven million users in Europe alone, electronic cigarettes are unquestionably on-trend. They are also proving contentious: last week, a Mothercare worker was frozen after “vaping” in front of customers. Michelle Capewell, 41, was told after taking a pull of her e-cigarette to leave the store by her supervisor.
That is not the only row the gadgets have ignited. Public health experts are sharply divided about cigarette, with some arguing they could significantly cut deaths from tobacco - of which there are 100,000 yearly in the UK - while others warn they will just glamorise smoking, especially among the young.
Euro MPs added to the confusion by throwing an European Commission proposal, supported by the regulatory authority in the UK, to treat cigarette as medicines out.
E-cigarettes contain a battery, atomiser and a cartridge containing nicotine, suspended in a solution of propylene glycol (the material from which theatrical smoke is made). When the user inhales, the solution is vaporised (therefore “vaping”), delivering a nicotine hit to the lungs minus the tar and toxins that would come from normal smokes.
Some e-cigarettes have an indicator light at the end which glows when the user inhales, to give an added touch. And, unlike standard nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as gums, patches and sprays, they offer “the cigarette experience”, notes Jeremy Mean, from your Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA). “Rites such as having something to hold are essential in dependence,” Jeremy says. “Cigarette may help some people a lot more than standard NRT.”