E-cigarettes are known to help people stop smoking, even when they don’t want to, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK.
Published this week, a study funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) showed that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes may be better able to stay smoke-free in the long term.
Dr Caitlin Notley from UEA’s Norwich Medical School said: “E-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than tobacco smoking, and they are now the most popular aid to quitting smoking in the UK.
“However, the idea of using e-cigarettes to stop smoking, and particularly long-term use, remains controversial.
“We wanted to find out about how people use e-cigarettes to quit smoking – and whether vaping supports long-term smoking abstinence.”
Studying reasons people use e-cigarettes
The research team carried out 40 in-depth interviews with vapers, where they were asked about their tobacco smoking history and prior quit attempts, along with how they started vaping and whether they switched to this method in an attempt to quit smoking.
“We found that vaping may support long-term smoking abstinence,” Notley added. “Not only does it substitute many of the physical, psychological, social and cultural elements of cigarette smoking, but it is pleasurable in its own right, as well as convenient and cheaper than smoking.
“Our study group also felt better in themselves – they noticed better respiratory function, taste and smell.
“But the really interesting thing we found was that vaping may also encourage people who don’t even want to stop smoking, to eventually quit.”
How effective were e-cigarettes on the participants?
It was found that while most of the sample group reported long histories of tobacco smoking and multiple previous attempts at quitting smoking, 17% said they enjoyed smoking and never seriously attempted to quit.
“These were our accidental quitters,” continued Dr Notley. “They hadn’t intended to quit smoking and had tried vaping on a whim, or because they had been offered it by friends. They went on to like it, and only then saw it as a potential substitute for smoking.
“Many people talked about how they saw vaping was a no pressure approach to quitting,” she added.
“We found that people did occasionally relapse with a cigarette, mainly due to social or emotional reasons, but it didn’t necessarily lead to a full relapse.
“This study suggests that vaping is a viable long-term substitute for smoking, with substantial implications for tobacco harm reduction.”
What the experts say
Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “The evidence so far shows that e-cigarettes are far safer than tobacco. E-cigarettes do still contain nicotine, which is addictive, but it’s not responsible for the major harms of smoking. This is why they have great potential as an aid to help people quit smoking for good.
“It’s great to see this early indication that e-cigarettes could encourage smokers who weren’t originally thinking of quitting to give up. But more research is needed to understand exactly how e-cigarettes are being used by people who don’t want to stop smoking and how often this results in quitting. E-cigarettes are just one option for quitting – your local Stop Smoking Service can give you free advice on the best method for you, and with their support you’ll have the best chance of success.”