Does Vaping Boost Smoking Cessation Success?
There is no doubt that the vaping industry is making major strides in paving the way for healthier alternatives to smoking. It’s no wonder that the majority of e-cigarette users are former smokers. However, the decade-long debate about just how effective vaping is in this regard, continues to flare and until more recently, there hasn’t been much in the way of reliable evidence.
In this article, we explore the use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, and give you tips on how to increase your chances of success.
What Does The Data Show?
A recent Belgian study recorded the smoking/ vaping habits of 71 regular smokers at different stages following their first e-cigarette purchase. At each stage, the participants filled out a questionnaire and their smoking status was checked using exhaled carbon monoxide (eCO) measurements. The researchers concluded that approximately 1 in 5 participants had successfully quit smoking within 6 months of buying their first e-cigarette. A further 25% of participants managed to reduce their smoking by at least half of their usual habits.
More importantly, these results are significantly higher than those of people who try to quit based on willpower alone (~3-5%) or using traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) (~ 8%).
These results are compelling and help to further validate e-cigarette brands that have been under scrutiny for years. They also potentially represent a major development in public health efforts to reduce the effects of smoking on population and environmental health.
E-cigarettes And Smoking Cessation
We know what the data says, but why exactly are e-cigarettes so effective?
Manage Nicotine Cravings
The withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking cessation are probably the biggest deterrent and root of futile attempts. E-cigarettes can help ex-smokers to effectively manage their nicotine cravings by delivering doses tailored to their individual needs.
The Belgian study discovered that people who successfully quit smoking had consumed more e-liquid than those who had cut down or who showed no significant change in their smoking habits. It seems the more well controlled the cravings, the better the outcome.
Vaping wins over traditional NRT products because it not only keeps the cravings at bay but does so in a way that is pleasurable. Many ex-smokers find vaping to be satisfying particularly because it provides some of the positive subjective effects associated with smoking. For example, the hand to mouth action, or the throat hit - the little things that other smoking cessation like gum or patch products can’t provide.
There is also a world of high-tech equipment and tantalizing e-liquid flavors to choose from, making the vaping experience far more exciting compared to traditional cigarette smoking.
Tips For Success
Although we know that vaping is an effective smoking cessation tool, it isn’t a magic wand. It may make the switch easier, but it certainly won’t make it a walk in the park. As with any habit, it takes careful planning, discipline, and determination to successfully overcome smoking urges.
Here are our top 3 tips for boosting your chances of smoking cessation with the use of e-cigarettes:
Stop Smoking Services
Quitting smoking is by no means an easy feat, but there is no need to do it alone. If you are considering using e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement tool to facilitate smoking cessation, it would be wise to seek support from a trained professional. Behavioural interventions and one-to-one support have been shown to significantly improve abstinence rates in smokers motivated to quit.
A large-scale UK study recently found that people who use e-cigarettes in combination with expert advice and support are twice as likely to successfully quit smoking compared to people using traditional NRT products. One year into the study, 18% of e-cigarette users had stopped smoking, compared to 9.9% of NRT users. Additionally, not only are vapers more likely to quit smoking, but to remain smoke-free in the long run.
Get Your Nicotine Dose Right
Although it may seem like cheating, nicotine replacement is a key part of quitting cigarette smoking, particularly in the first few weeks when people usually start to experience withdrawals. Nicotine cravings are the main reason why smokers relapse, so effectively controlling these cravings can facilitate abstinence. Research shows that e-cigarette users report less severe urges to smoke in the first month of quitting compared to NRT users, which likely explains why they are more successful in the long run.
When you start out, it is imperative that you use a nicotine concentration that is right for you. Many brands offer a rough guide based on your previous smoking habits. Once you feel that you have your nicotine cravings under control, you can slowly start to wean yourself by reducing the e-liquid nicotine concentration.
It may sound silly, but the best way to ensure success is to actually stop smoking once you start using your e-cigarette. Afterall, they are designed to be a replacement therapy. While it may seem like a good idea to gradually phase out your cigarettes while concurrently vaping, you may be making things harder for yourself. A recent publication revealed that abrupt smoking cessation was 25% more efficient than gradual decrease. It may be helpful to designate a “quit day” in advance, as this will give you time to put some strategies in place to set yourself up for success.
Additionally, the major driver for smoking cessation are the associated health benefits. The only way to harness these is to completely switch.
What about e-cigarette addiction?
Many have expressed concern that although vaping helps people stop smoking, it doesn’t solve the problem of nicotine addiction. One study showed that a large proportion of e-cigarette users continued to vape up to 1 year after traditional smoking cessation.
It is understandable why this may be regarded as problematic, as the risks of long-term e-cigarette use are yet to be fully understood. However, at the very least, we know for a fact the e-cigarettes contain far less toxins and carcinogens compared to tobacco cigarettes, and that it is the safer alternative. It could even be argued that especially for heavy smokers, the need to continue with long-term nicotine replacement use could reduce their risk of relapse.
While nicotine is addictive, it is not known to be associated with any significant harmful effects. Furthermore, the concentrations used in e-liquids are similar to those used in approved NRT products, which again, are not known to cause harmful effects.
Smoking cessation is no easy feat, but the health benefits are well worth the battle. There is hope that the recent advances made in e-cigarette research will evoke confidence in regulators who were previously reluctant to approve e-cigarettes as valid smoking cessation tools.