E-cigarettes : Miracle or menace?.

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About this work


Michael Mosley investigates the world of electronic or e-cigarettes in an attempt to ascertain whether or not they are a miracle cure for cigarette smoking. There are 10 million smokers currently in the UK and around 50% of them will die from smoking-related illnesses. Although e-cigarettes are increasingly becoming a socially acceptable way of taking nicotine, what is their long-term affect on health? Mosley starts smoking an e-cigarette regularly to see what changes happen to his health - there is no evidence that the nicotine has led to any improvements and his levels of nitric oxide are higher which shows a decrease in lung capacity. The programme also investigates how effective e-cigarettes are in helping long-term smokers to quit. In an experiment, 26 smokers who smoke at least 20 cigarettes a day over four weeks. One group continued to smoke regular cigarettes, one tried to quit cold turkey, one used nicotine replacement therapy and one group switched to e-cigarettes. The group who attempted to quit cold turkey struggled the most while those using either nicotine replacement or e-cigarettes managed to cut back on or stop their usual cigarette habit. Those who managed to stop smoking ordinary cigarettes had very low levels of carbon monoxide and acrolein after four weeks with half the levels of nicotine. However airway resistance was markedly less improved in e-cigarette smokers than in those using nicotine replacement therapy. Mosley also looks at the history and production of e-cigarettes and addresses the concerns that some of the flavourings used in e-cigarettes might be unsafe for human inhalation; although they cause less cell death than ordinary cigarettes, they do still cause cell death. Mosley assesses the potential risks of passive smoking from e-cigarettes which although release far fewer toxins than ordinary cigarettes, do still release some and the potential health effects of these are not yet known. There is a general consensus that the long-term effects of e-cigarettes may be troubling but in the short-term they are a better solution than traditional cigarettes.



Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, colour ; 12 cm.

Copyright note

BBC Science Production.


Originally broadcast on 22nd May 2016 on BBC 2.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Emma Hatherley.
Presented and narrated by Michael Mosley.



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