Previous studies suggest that electronic cigarettes are far better at helping people ‘quit’* than nicotine patches or lozenges.
But until now scientists have ignored why.
A new study aims to put that right by working out just why electronic cigarettes are so effective.
Why Electronic Cigarettes Work
Based on interviews with vapers, the study came up with five reasons vaping works.
1.Bio-Behavioural Feedback: Vaping Mimics Smoking
One reason e-cigs work is because they are so similar to cigarettes. Vapers highlighted the similarity of e-cigarettes to cigarettes, the feeling they get at the back of the throat when they inhale, and how electronic cigarettes took the place of tobacco cigarettes in their daily routine.
That feeling when it comes down and hits your throat and you inhale it – that’s like a big deal for us all.
2. Social Benefits
The huge support network available online and offline was also considered a reason for success – this was compared to nicotine patches:
You don’t hear about two people on the patch talking about their patches or what brand their [sic] trying or what not.
3. Hobby Elements
You don’t try different flavours and models with patches – but ex-smokers do with electronic cigarettes.
I don’t collect lighters now, I’m collecting juices and devices.
4. Personal Identity: Smokers relabelling themselves as vapers
Instead of calling themselves smokers, electronic cigarettes now call themselves vapers.
5. Quitting Smoking v. Quitting Nicotine
A final theme of the study was that participants didn’t feel an urgent need to quit nicotine – the priority was switching to a safer form of nicotine usage.
My goal is to be nicotine-free at some point, but I’m not in a hurry.
A downside of nicotine patches and gum is that they are meant to be temporary – and smokers know this.
Comparison Between Cessation Products and Electronic Cigarettes
The study pointed out the success rate of nicotine replacement therapy (7%) and electronic cigarettes (one study found that 22.5% of smokers stopped altogether with a further 32.5% cutting the amount they smoked by at least half).
The vapers interviewed had all tried regular quit smoking products before switching to e-cigarettes.
The vapers identified several drawbacks with regular quit smoking products:
- side effects
- relapses (one even smoked while using varenicline)
- failure to replace the physcological craving for cigarettes
While the study was interesting and useful, it’s only representative of forum users. Some of the conclusions (social benefit and hobby elements) may not apply to people who just vape and don’t use forums and social networks.
That’s not to say the study isn’t useful – it is.
Many studies seem to start with a theory and then look for the evidence that supports it. Others have biases that affect their conclusions. For example, even some scientists who support electronic cigarettes assume that the devices are no more than a quit smoking aid.
One thing I love about this study is that it did the exact opposite. The authors talked to vapers, then drew their conclusions from what actual users said. And it also highlighted something which is obvious to many smokers and vapers but often ignored by scientists – quitting cigarettes is not just about the nicotine.
*I say ‘quit’ because some smokers are in fact switching from one form of nicotine usage to another one. However, many scientists believe that the health benefits of switching are almost as good as quitting altogether.
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