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Study Shows E-Cig Users Feel the Devices Are Safer

A U.K. study released last month reveals interesting data about how e-cigarette users perceive the device’s impact on their health and its role in helping them quit traditional tobacco smoking.

Led by Christopher Russell, Ph.D., the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow conducted the “Vapers Helping Smokers” global survey this past summer. The survey’s findings were released last month at the VapExpo in Paris.

For the study, the center surveyed 7,326 current regular vapers, of whom, 5,000 (75 percent) were smoking regularly when they first tried vaping. Of these individuals, 4,235 (85.9 percent) had quit smoking completely since they started vaping regularly. Of the 754 respondents who were still smoking, 56 percent had reduced their daily smoking by at least 50 percent since they started vaping regularly. 

Last week in this blog, we discussed how the study found that e-cigarette users can help current tobacco smokers switch by sharing their experiences with vaping and providing support and encouragement.

As part of the survey, researchers also uncovered additional data that is telling of the mindset and habits of e-cig users. For example:

  • The bulk of survey participants – 34 percent – tried e-cigs for the first time in 2013. 
  • Eighty percent of participants choose e-cigs with a nicotine level between 1 and 12 milligrams. 
  • Sixty percent of participants believe e-cigs to be “slightly harmful” and 36 percent believed them to be “not harmful at all.” 
  • Nearly 99 percent feel that e-cigs are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Sixty-five percent feel e-cigs are less harmful than they were five years ago. 
  • Eighty-three percent of survey takers reported that they believe e-cigs are less addictive that tobacco cigarettes. 
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that they believe most media reports about e-cigs are likely to “scare smokers away from vaping.” The majority said the reports are “misleading,” “imbalanced,” “scaremongering,” “sensationalizing” and exaggerate the dangers of e-cigs.

The top five reasons participants started using e-cigs are

  1. To quit smoking
  2. Concerns about health
  3. To save money
  4. Heard that e-cigs are safer than smoking
  5. Hate the smell of stale cigarette smoke  

Participants also reported than since switching to e-cigs from smoking, they have noticed improved breathing, energy, stamina, and sense of smell and taste, among other things.

As part of the survey, vapers also were asked about what advice they would give to smokers trying to make the switch to e-cigs.

Their advice includes

  1. Don’t expect miracles.
  2. Do what you can do.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  4. Small steps taken with purpose are better than impractical giant leaps.
  5. If you smoke, don’t beat yourself up, it happens.
  6. Every cigarette less is an achievement; going again after a slip is a bigger achievement.
  7. Define yourself by your achievements, not your failures.
  8. Don’t measure how far you have to go; measure how far you have come.
  9. Always be mindful of the harms of smoking that are being avoided by vaping instead.

Last month, Russell, a psychologist, said the study showed that with some effort and support, current e-cigarette users can help traditional cigarette smokers make the switch to vaping. 

In the press release announcing the results, center officials said

“We know that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit smoking. Less discussed is the idea that vapers who have quit smoking since they started vaping regularly can further boost quit rates by providing an invaluable source of first-hand experience, information and advice to smokers who may be curious, cautious or contemplating using an e-cigarette to support a quit attempt.” 

Russell’s research found that “an intuitive, pragmatic approach (to get those to quit smoking) would be to encourage and assist those who are not interested, willing or able to quit smoking to use nicotine products that are substantially less toxic than inhaled tobacco smoke.” 

Among the data collected from the ‘successful’ vapers was smoking history, past quit attempts, vaping history, e-cig preferences (including devices, flavors and nicotine strength), adverse events from e-cig use, perception of e-cig danger, benefits and pleasures of vaping and advice they would give to a smoker who is thinking about using an e-cigarette to quit smoking. 

Participation in the survey was online and open to anyone age 18 and over. Most of the participations were from the U.S. and France, but numerous participants also were from the U.K., Spain, Canada and Italy. 

The Centre for Drug Misuse Research (CDMR) specializes in studies related to substance use and abuse. The center’s team includes sociologists and psychologists, who design and execute surveys based on interviewing substantial numbers of individuals as well as carrying out more focused qualitative work involving small focus group interviews.