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Switching to vaping not always straightforward: Otago research

Clocktower.

Thursday, 8 February 2018 2:48pm

Smoking vs vaping image
Making the transition from cigarettes to vapes isn't as easy as smokers would hope, new University of Otago research has found.

Smokers attempting to quit the habit by vaping or using e-cigarettes do not always find the process plain sailing, according to new University of Otago research published in the international journal, Tobacco Control.

The study, which involved in-depth interviews with 20 vapers who also smoked traditional cigarettes regulary, explored why some smokers did not make a full transition to vaping.

Lead author, Dr Lindsay Robertson, a Research Fellow in the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, says the main reason this group of vapers did not stop smoking completely was a strong attachment to, and a sense of nostalgia for, what they described as “real” cigarettes.

Lindsay Robertson small
Lead author Dr Lindsay Robertson, Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit, University of Otago.

“Many started their quit attempt expecting that vaping would offer them exactly the same experience as smoking. However, they often became disappointed when their experiences didn’t replicate smoking, and continued smoking as well as vaping.”

One way of addressing this problem could involve managing smokers’ expectations more carefully. This includes ensuring smokers who want to switch to vaping receive good advice from well-trained retailers with specialist vaping knowledge, the researchers suggest.

“Participants see specialist vape-shop staff as expert advisers; retailers of electronic nicotine delivery systems could help remind people of the importance of giving up entirely,” says Professor Janet Hoek, who leads the Health Research Council-funded research project.

“This advice could be very important because some participants thought having cut down the number of cigarettes they smoked was a successful outcome, and so stopped trying to stop smoking completely.”

Professor Hoek highlights a UK study published in the British Medical Journal last week that showed smoking only one cigarette per day carries a much greater risk of developing heart disease and stroke than previously expected: around half of the risk for people who smoke 20 per day.

Janet Hoek small
Professor Janet Hoek, Department of Public Health and Marketing.

Other reasons study participants used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes were to side-step legislation that has made tobacco less affordable and less convenient to use in public spaces, and to avoid feelings of stigma.
Dr Robertson says whether participants vaped or smoked a cigarette often depended on the people around them, and some participants reported experiencing stigma towards vaping.

Government legislation could help people make a full transition away from smoking to exclusive use of e-cigarettes and vape devices, say the researchers.

“We need to get the balance of regulation right, to ensure smokers who choose to quit by vaping receive the best support and advice possible, are not encouraged back towards smoking and, of course, to prevent harm to young people”, Professor Hoek says.

The study, titled “Dual use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and smoked tobacco: a qualitative analysis” was authored by Dr Robertson, Professor Hoek, Ms Mei-Ling Blank and Dr Rosalina Richards from the University of Otago’s research theme, ASPIRE 2025; Dr Pamela Ling from the University of California, San Francisco and Dr Lucy Popova from Georgia State University, both in the United States.

This research was supported by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

ASPIRE2025
Dual use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and smoked tobacco: a qualitative analysis (PDF format,227KB)

For more information, contact:

Dr Lindsay Robertson
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
University of Otago
Email: l.robertson@otago.ac.nz
Tel: +64 3 479 7177

Professor Janet Hoek
Departments of Public Health and Marketing
University of Otago
Email: janet.hoek@otago.ac.nz
Tel: +64 3 479 7692

Liane Topham-Kindley
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Email: liane.topham-kindley@otago.ac.nz
Tel: +64 3 479 9065

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