E-cigarettes are increasingly popular among smokers as a quitting tool

Since a growing number of scientific results suggest that e-cigarettes may help smokers quit smoking, there is still a debate within the academic community regarding e-cigarette efficacy and safety.

The use of the e-cigarette in Stop Smoking Services has increased substantially although e-cigarettes are currently not regulated. However, they are promoted as smoking cessation tools and some of them will even be prescribed on the NHS but still remain unavailable from Stop Smoking Services in England.

Frances Sherratt, from the University of Liverpool, whose PhD explores the relationship between lung cancer risk awareness and future smoking behaviour, conducted phone interviews among Stop Smoking Service users [1]. With her co-authors from the Research Centre for Brain and Behaviour, Natural Sciences and Psychology (Liverpool John Moores University), and from the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology (university of Liverpool) the researcher of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme (Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine) identified three major themes: (1) self-efficacy and beliefs in e-cigarettes; (2) e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid; and (3) cues for e-cigarette use.

What are the reasons for use and non-use?

“I started recruitment at the stop smoking service Roy Castle FagEnds; it was an excellent experience working face to face with clients and gaining a better understanding of the process of smoking cessation first-hand. ” -F. Sherratt
Most of the participants seemed to be aware of the controversies around the e-cigarette and its efficacy as well as of safety concerns. The use of the device appeared to be widespread among Stop Smoking Service users although it remains unavailable for prescription on the NHS. The personal reasons for use or non-use as smoking cessation tools were analyzed by the team and appeared to be associated to their status with regard to the e-cigarette: e-cigarette ever users viewed e-cigarettes as effective and safenever users were especially concerned regarding e-cigarette efficacy and safety. Both categories however show evidence of misunderstanding.

To help smokers make educated decisions

In order to help smokers make educated decisions regarding their smoking cessation treatment choices, the study demonstrates the importance of providing smokers intending to quit with up-to-date, accurate and unbiased e-cigarette information.  The authors also estimate that these results may inform Stop Smoking Services provision in future.

This study demonstrates that perception is a key element in the approach of the smoker. In order not to discourage million smokers to try the electronic cigarette in a logic of risk reduction or of a withdrawal process, the information that is conveyed by the professionals and the media has to be the most accurate and responsible possible. Skew scientific results and anti-vaping personal opinions often demonize the e-cigarette.

It also appears important to educate e-cigarette users in the use and the maintenance of their material, and their ability to handle situations of everyday life that they associate with smoking. Initiatives like the School of Vape are welcome and would help smokers in their quitting process.

[1] Sherratt, F. C., Newson, L., Marcus, M. W., Field, J. K. and Robinson, J. (2015), Perceptions towards electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation among Stop Smoking Service users. British Journal of Health Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12177

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