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Everything you wanted to know about e-cigarettes and vaping but were afraid to ask: a guide for mental health clinicians

  • Suzy Ker (a1), Emily Peckham (a2), Simon Gilbody (a3) and Susan Bonner (a4)


Mental health clinicians are expected to offer support and advice to patients to promote smoking cessation. Alongside this is the relatively new and increasingly popular phenomenon of electronic cigarette use. The absence of any long-term evidence regarding safety is recognised and clinicians' awareness of e-cigarettes may be limited to personal experience or media publications, leading to uncertainty in their confidence discussing e-cigarettes with patients, both in general and as an aid to quitting smoking. This article provides a historical and contemporary overview of e-cigarettes and vaping. The reader will gain an understanding of e-cigarette usage, risks and benefits, the current position on use of e-cigarettes in mental health settings, and tips on how to take an e-cigarette/vaping history and how to offer advice about use. This is achieved in the context of recent publications and national recommendations. Although the focus is primarily on the mental health patient, the article is of benefit to all health and social care professionals to help them develop an understanding of e-cigarettes as a tobacco-smoking cessation or harm-reduction aid.


After reading this article you will be able to:

  • provide a balanced overview of e-cigarette use
  • understand the risk reduction approach in the use of e-cigarettes versus tobacco smoking in people with mental illness
  • demonstrate the principles of taking a vaping history.


S.G. was chief investigator for the Smoking Cessation Intervention for Severe Mental Ill Health Trial (SCIMITAR) (HTA 11/136/52) and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Yorkshire and Humber Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC YH). S.K. received an NIHR grant to part fund her research time for SCIMITAR. This article evolved from the SCIMITAR study.


Corresponding author

Correspondence Dr Suzy Ker, Adult Mental Health/North-East York Community Mental Health Team, Huntington House, Jockey Lane, Huntington, York YO32 9XW, UK. Email:


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Everything you wanted to know about e-cigarettes and vaping but were afraid to ask: a guide for mental health clinicians

  • Suzy Ker (a1), Emily Peckham (a2), Simon Gilbody (a3) and Susan Bonner (a4)


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Everything you wanted to know about e-cigarettes and vaping but were afraid to ask: a guide for mental health clinicians

  • Suzy Ker (a1), Emily Peckham (a2), Simon Gilbody (a3) and Susan Bonner (a4)
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