Study finds vaping is helping smokers 'accidentally quit'

It’s already well-known that vaping offers a higher success rate of quitting smoking for good compared to other cessation methods. More evidence has now emerged in the form of a recent study, which found that smokers who take up vaping show a much greater rate of quitting. The best part? It’s also true for those who weren’t intending to quit. 

Dubbed ‘accidental quitting’, the phenomenon isn’t news to the many ex-smokers who switched to vaping unintentionally, but evidence to support its prevalence is another positive boost for the industry. It shows that vaping can help smokers kick the habit even if they aren’t trying to, supporting the ongoing campaign for vape devices to be recognised as an invaluable cessation tool. 

The study, conducted in the US, looked at the behaviour of 1,600 smokers who had no intention of quitting. 28% of new vapers stopped using cigarettes and other tobacco products as a ‘natural transition’, rather than as part of a formal attempt. Out of the group who didn’t use a vape device, only 5.8% successfully quit smoking. 

“These findings are paradigm-shifting, because the data suggest that vaping may actually help people who are not actively trying to quit smoking,” said Dr. Andrew Hyland, Chair of Health Behavior at Roswell Park and scientific lead on the study. 

He added, “Most other studies focus exclusively on people who are actively trying to quit smoking, but this study suggests that we may be missing effects of e-cigarettes by not considering this group of smokers with limited intention to stop smoking — a group that is often at the highest risk for poor health outcomes from cigarette smoking.”

The findings add to the promising wealth of data supporting the validity of vaping as a tool for quitting smoking, with the authors calling for further research into this relatively untapped group of smokers.

Dr Karin Kasza, a research scientist in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park and first author of the study, said, “We found evidence that the use of e-cigarettes could have a positive impact on this very hard-to-reach group of recalcitrant smokers. To truly understand the health impact of vaping on the U.S. population, we need to consider those with no intention to quit.”

It’s likely that UK health officials will also be interested in the study’s findings, especially since Britain could soon be the first country in the world to offer a medically licensed vape device on the NHS. The UK is also far more liberal than the US when it comes to vaping, with America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning over 946,000 flavoured vape products in September last year. 

In the landmark clampdown, the FDA stated that the applications it rejected "lacked sufficient evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient to overcome the public health threat posed by the well-documented, alarming levels of youth use of such products."

Studies like this one might help encourage more smokers to quit, and back up the safety of e-cigarettes compared to smoking. Currently, over a third of smokers in the UK wrongly believe that e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than combustible tobacco. Reaching this group will be critical if we’re to achieve the Government’s smoke-free 2030 goal, but this is becoming more difficult with tight restrictions on vape marketing. 

Unfortunately, the World Health Organisation continues to reject vaping and is encouraging more countries to ban it. It’s hoped that further research into this area might help cut through the fake news surrounding the safety and effectiveness of vaping, and instead recognise it as a far healthier alternative to smoking. 

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