New study shows vaping may lead to generations of ‘accidental quitters’

According to a recently published study out of the UK, smokers who try vaping may end up becoming accidental quitters even if this was not their initial intention.  The research team led by Dr. Caitlin Notley of the University of East Anglia asked a control group of 40 heavy smokers about their experiences with vaping.  17 percent admitted to switching from smoking accidentally after being offered a vaping device by a friend or on a whim.  After initial use, they found that they liked the experience and continued experimenting before ultimately giving up smoking altogether.

The scientists suspect that there are many different reasons for these accidental quitters involving cultural, psychological, physical, social, and economic factors.   Some participants claimed to have found the flavors of e-liquids used in vaping more enjoyable than conventional smoking.  Others discovered that vaping is simply cheaper and more convenient than smoking. 

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Meanwhile, some members of the control group reported that vaping offers a “no pressure approach” to quitting.  Conventional methods of quitting smoking often lead to uncomfortable side effects, such as mood swings, increased irritability, and weight gain.  Another perk is that smokers who try vaping can avoid announcing to their friends and family that they are “quitting smoking,” which can easily lead to embarrassment if the quit attempt fails.

Experimenting with vaping increases odds of quitting smoking

Furthermore, relapsing back into smoking – at least partially through dual usage-  after initially engaging with electronic cigarettes is not viewed by smokers as to be as “catastrophic” as with the cold-turkey methods of generations past.  The full report entitled The Unique Contribution of e-Cigarettes for Tobacco was published June 20 in the Harm Reduction Journal

“Despite initial success, that for some people was easily maintained, a majority of people either fully relapsed or dual used after purchasing their first device. For some, this was because they were not actually initially attempting to give up smoking. For others, brief lapse to tobacco smoking occurred due to social or emotional reasons. However, importantly, lapse for these people did not appear to be as catastrophic as it may have been in the past, as it did not necessarily lead to full relapse.”

The study also suggests that the abundance of e-liquids, vape mods, and other related supplies associated with vaping can be both a pro and a con for aspiring vapers.  On the negative side, many smokers can relapse or re-engage in dual use if the very first product chosen has certain “inferiorities.”  On the positive side, experimenting with the different devices and flavors keeps vapers motivated and interested in maintaining their new and healthier vaping lifestyle. 

“Many of these chose a cheaper ‘cig-a-like’ device which they found to be inadequate. Experimentation with different devices and different setups, over time, resulted in some ‘sliding’ rather than switching to vaping. This involved periods of ‘dual use’. Some settled on patterns of vaping as a direct substitute of previous tobacco smoking, whereas others reported ‘grazing’ patterns of vaping throughout the day that were perceived to support tobacco smoking abstinence.”

The study was funded by Cancer Research England, and the co-authors also confirm the 2015 findings by Public Health England which state that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking.  The researchers also readily admit that long-term use of e-cigs is still considered somewhat “controversial”  since a lack of reputable, cross-sectional, and longitudinal scientific research is still lacking. 

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