• September 30, 2020

Best Buddies

Want to quit smoking? Hang out with a vaper!

By Marina A. Murphy

Smokers who hang out with vapers are about 20 percent more likely to try to quit tobacco, according to research that puts paid to the idea that e-cigarettes and vaping renormalize smoking.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at University College London (UCL) over a period of 3.5 years and involved almost 13,000 participants, found that smokers who regularly spend time with vapers are likely to have tried an e-cigarette themselves. They are also highly motivated to quit and are likely to have already made attempts to stop smoking. By contrast, smokers who hang out with other smokers are not motivated to stop smoking.

While there is a lot of support for e-cigarettes, given that they are likely to be significantly safer than smoking and do not harm bystanders, some skeptics still believe that the sight of people puffing away on their e-cigarettes is likely to encourage smoking.

This is the first study to assess the impact of other people’s vaping on smokers’ desire to quit and the likelihood that they will try to do it.

The authors of this study say that their findings offer no evidence that spending time with vapers discourages smokers from quitting and should offer reassurance in terms of the public health impact of e-cigarettes.

“It is becoming increasingly more commonplace for smokers to come into contact with vapers, and some concerns have been raised that this could ‘renormalize’ smoking in England and undermine smokers’ motivation to quit,” said lead author Sarah Jackson of the Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care at UCL.

Kruti Shrotri, a tobacco control expert at Cancer Research U.K., which funded the study, said, “So far, there hasn’t been much evidence about whether e-cigarettes might make smoking tobacco seem normal again. So it’s encouraging to see that mixing with people who vape is actually motivating smokers to quit. As the number of people who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking rises, we hope that smokers who come into contact with them are spurred on to give up tobacco for good.”

The study, which was published in BMC Medicine, used data from 12,787 smokers who participated in the Smoking Toolkit Study, which analyzed smoking patterns in England between November 2014 and May 2018. Participants were asked whether anyone other than themselves used an e-cigarette regularly in their presence, whether they were motivated to quit smoking and whether they had made any attempts to quit.

The results showed that smokers who were regularly exposed to vapers (as opposed to other smokers) were around 20 percent more likely to report both a high current motivation to quit and to have made a recent attempt to quit.

Around one-quarter of smokers in the study said they regularly spent time with vapers. Of these, around one-third had tried to quit smoking in the previous year—a higher rate than was observed among smokers who did not regularly spend time with vapers.

It is thought that a key driving factor in the differences between smokers who hang out with vapers and those who don’t is that smokers who spend time with people who vape are simply more likely to give vaping a try themselves.

Marina A. Murphy

Marina A. Murphy

Marina A. Murphy is a scientific communications and engagement expert with more than 20 years of experience, including 10 years in the tobacco sector.