By this point, much has been reported on using e-cigarettes as a device to help quit traditional smoking. With e-cigarettes offering an enjoyable using experience, while more safely delivering nicotine to the user, it is only natural that the healthier alternative of vaping would become a tool in the war to quit smoking. E-cigarettes offer a much better alternative to nicotine delivery when compared with traditional, combustible smokes that contain tar, smoke and hundreds of cancer and disease causing chemicals. That is why it is no surprise that users seeking help for kicking their addiction use e-cigarettes as a tool in their arsenal against smoking.
At Liverpool Stop Smoking Service in England, a group of over 300 smokers were studied to better understand how they quit, what methods they use and why they use them. The results of this study, conducted by the University of Liverpool, were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Conference in November 2014. Just over half the smokers using the Liverpool Stop Smoking Service, 51.3%, have tried electronic cigarettes. Of these, nearly half had used them within the past month and consider themselves current users.
The study also highlights that smokers appear more likely to try e-cigarettes if they feel confident that they are safer than tobacco smoking. The research shows that many of the smokers appeared undecided towards e-cigarettes, and they suggest this is due to the widely documented uncertainties about safety and effectiveness of the devices. In England, reports are widespread about the “dangerous” e-cigarettes, though many of the reports are highly sensationalized. Smokers in the survey who did not approve of e-cigarettes noted that they viewed using e-cigarettes as an extension of smoking and thus inferior in comparison to other, less “smoking-like” tools for smoking cessation.
The majority of those surveyed, however, used e-cigarettes, or had at least tried them as part of their stop smoking program. Frances Sherratt, professor at the University of Liverpool and lead author of the study, said: “Our results show that electronic cigarettes are commonly used by smokers wanting to quit and seek help through the Stop Smoking Services. Many smokers also viewed e-cigarettes negatively or indifferently as a way to stop smoking. This study highlights the need for better education regarding e-cigarettes, to enable smokers to make balanced, informed smoking cessation treatment decisions to help them quit.” It is clear that for some users e-cigarettes are important in the war against smoking and can often be the best tool that balances a person’s efforts to quit.
One part of what this study sheds light on is who is using the e-cigarettes to begin with it. If e-cigarettes are used primarily by ex-smokers looking to quit or replace traditional tobacco, then the e-cigarette become a health device and technology item, not a gateway drug or just another cigarette. E-cigarettes, when defined by who actually uses them, become a lot less scary and more of a health benefit. They are not here to corrupt our children, they are here to save lives and make things better.
Unfortunately, e-cigarettes seem to be fighting an uphill battle to remain positive in the public eye. Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation who helped finance the research, said: “Lingering issues around their [e-cigarettes] safety and long-term health impact also continue to affect public opinion.” The danger of a less than favorable public opinion on e-cigarettes could pigeon-hole e-cigarettes into a dangerous zone, where taxes, regulation, and negative image bog the product down into oblivion.
E-cigarettes should not be demonized when in reality, they could actually save lives. Professor Peter Hajek, from the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, believes that e-cigarettes could have a huge impact on our world as we know it, “It really could be a revolutionary intervention in public health if smokers switched from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes.” Recently the University College London conducted a study that suggested that for every million smokers who switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes, more than 6,000 premature deaths could be prevented each year. E-cigarettes are not something that should be vilified; they need to be recognized for what they are and their ability to help people.
Studies, like the one at the University of Liverpool, are important, not just because they explicate who uses e-cigarettes, but also how “smokers” use them. Dr. Karen Kennedy, Director of the National Cancer Research Institute, said: “This research provides an interesting insight into how many, and why, smokers use e-cigarettes. Tobacco is the single biggest cause of preventable cancer deaths, so understanding how smokers can be better helped in breaking the addiction is extremely valuable in reducing cancer deaths.”
Reducing cancer deaths is just the tip of the iceberg when you’re talking about the potential health benefits that come with an overall shift to e-cigarettes. While more studies are always needed, the improved health benefit of e-cigarettes over traditional smokes is undeniable. Whether they are being used to facilitate quitting, or if they are used just to replace the traditional cigarette, e-cigarettes are undoubtedly a change for the better.