Research indicates several reasons e-cigarettes are better than traditional NRTs at helping people quit
Smoking continues to be one of the most significant public health crisis’ around the world, as its the leading cause of preventable death and disease almost everywhere. So while it’s still a huge problem overall, our ever-active fight against tobacco over the last 30 years has yielded positive results, such as the consistently dropping smoking rate around the world. But traditional methods of helping smokers quit have become less effective in recent years.
That’s why so many public health experts are intrigued by the prospect of vaping as a new smoking cessation tool. New research published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that “vaping is a viable long-term substitute for smoking, with substantial implications for tobacco harm reduction.” But possibly more importantly, we may have nailed down precisely why vaping has proven to be such a useful smoking cessation tool.
This study was led by Dr. Caitlin Notley, of Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Dr. Notley and her team wanted to understand better the role that vaping has to play in the fight against tobacco. They sought to clarify some of the disputed questions surrounding vaping, such as how it assists quitting attempts as well as long-term cessation. The relatively small sample of 40 vapers was necessary given the in-depth qualitative research gathered through interviews. This style of research focuses on fully understanding each participant and their relationship to the topic, instead of only gathering the most basic information from a larger number of participants, also known as quantitative research.
After gathering all their data, the team analyzed everything for critical thematic connections, and eventually noticed some significant patterns. One of the things that were most apparent to the research team was that vaping is so useful as a smoking cessation tool thanks to its similarities to smoking. According to Dr. Notley, vaping mimics many of the psychological and cultural cues of tobacco use, which fosters greater enjoyment from smokers. Another exciting finding of the study was that nearly 20% of participants started vaping full time, not as a conscious effort to quit smoking, but rather as a preferential choice that happened organically.
A Clearer Picture
In many ways, this new qualitative take on vaping is filling the gaps between what we already know about e-cigarette use. For starters it’s becoming hard to deny that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. The federal health agency for England, PHE published a now-famous report that indicated vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Then just last fall a study was published in the Journal of Aerosol Science that showed the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is in the ballpark of 57,000 times lower than that of a demographically similar smoker.
It’s clear that the authors of this new study believe vaping is an effective smoking cessation aid, even going as far as to indicate some vapers find it “pleasurable in its own right.” This finding backs up what a study out of the University of Louisville found last fall. That team tested the rate of success for different smoking cessation methods, from cold turkey through prescription drugs. After analyzing the results, they concluded that vaping was the single most effective tool in the fight against smoking.
Ultimately, Dr. Notley and her team feel their most significant finding is that vaping is so powerful as a smoking cessation tool due in large part to its similarity to smoking on a psychological, social, and cultural level. The same stance was taken by the British Psychological Society (BPS), who updated their official policy to suggest the key to vaping’s success is the satisfaction offered by having a process so comparable to smoking. These factors indicate we are honing in on how to maximize the value of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool.
It’s fantastic to see more qualitative research done on the impact of vaping. While large-scale studies will always be necessary to truly say anything for certain, in-depth interview based research is an extremely useful way to offer a well-rounded picture of an issue. This study alone was able to help bridge some of the gaps between well-established pieces of research on the topic. So while we still need more evidence, the picture is becoming clearer all the time.
If we genuinely value ending the smoking epidemic, we simply must take advantage of all our best tools, including vaping. As noted by Dr. Notley and the BPS, the key to vaping as a smoking cessation tool may be the cues shared between them. By honing in on and maximizing these qualities, we could one day see a world in which vaping squashes out smoking for good.
Do you think it’s important to see more in-depth interview-based research on vaping? Why do you think that vaping is so useful as a smoking cessation tool? How could we potentially maximize the similarities between smoking and vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.