The study titled “Vaping as an alternative to smoking relapse following brief lapse,” was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, and indicated that vaping not only promotes smoking cessation, but also long-term relapse prevention.

“E-cigarettes are the most popular aid to quitting smoking in the UK. Our previous research has shown that e-cigarettes are really important for helping people stay smoke free—by substituting the physical, psychological and social aspects of smoking. We wanted to know what happens when people who have switched to vaping, lapse back into smoking,” said lead researcher Dr. Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

“It’s really important to understand this so that we can develop advice, guidance and support to help people stay smoke free long term—particularly as relapsing back to smoking cigarettes is so harmful.”

Vapers who relapsed were more likely to bounce back than non-vapers

The researchers conducted interviews with 40 former smokers who had quit by switching to vaping. Around half of the participants reported either brief or regular relapses to smoking, particularly in social situations. However, the research findings indicated that vapers reacted differently to smoking relapses than non vapers.

“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.”Dr. Caitlin Notley, Lead Researcher

“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,” said Dr. Notley, adding, “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.”

Being a pleasurable alternative to smoking, vaping is more effective than other NRTs

“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.”Dr. Caitlin Notley, Lead Researcher

Notley concluded that because vaping is a pleasurable alternative to smoking, former smokers who vape, are less likely to go back to smoking if they fall for the odd cigarette. “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.”

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