E-cigarettes are the UK’s most popular smoking cessation aid and there are now more than 3 million vapers in the UK. New research conducted by the University of East Anglia and funded by cancer Research UK gives further backing for vaping.

The research surrounds the topic of relapsing back into smoking and the results are certainly positive for vaping. The findings, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, suggest that vaping encourages not just smoking cessation, but long-term relapse prevention.

The study consisted of interviews with 40 ex-smokers who had switched to vaping. The intention of the study was to help gain a better understanding of what happens when vapers lapse back into smoking and have a cigarette.

The findings showed that although around half of the participants reported brief or regular lapses into smoking, they found that these lapses were different to those associated with other quit attempts.

The lead author of the study was UEA Norwich medical School’s Dr Caitlin Notley. She said:

“In the past – a brief smoking lapse would almost always lead to a full relapse, and people would usually feel like a failure for slipping up. But this was before people started switching to vaping.

“The difference is that, for some vapers, the odd cigarette was thought of as being ‘allowed’. For others, an unintentional cigarette made them even more determined to maintain abstinence in future.

“Either way, it didn’t necessarily lead to a full relapse back into smoking.

“Because vaping is a more pleasurable alternative, our research found that a full relapse into smoking isn’t inevitable when people find themselves having the odd cigarette.

“There has been a lot of theorising around the process of smoking relapse after quit attempts. But all of these date back to pre-vaping times. This fresh evidence makes us question the usefulness of that understanding now that so many people are choosing to switch to vaping.

“For ex-smokers, vaping offers a pleasurable, social and psychological substitute to cigarettes – and it powerfully alters the threat of relapse. The old ‘not a puff’ advice may need revisiting.”

This research once again shows how vaping differs from other cessation techniques. It returns us to the theory that vaping is empowering and puts the decision into the hands of the vaper. If vapers do encounter setbacks, there are ways of altering the experience and more accurately meeting personal preferences to avoid future lapses.