Is vaping effective?

There is now convincing scientific evidence that vaping helps some people quit smoking and personal vaporisers are now the most popular quitting aid in the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Modern devices can provide the same levels of nicotine as tobacco cigarettes and can relieve urges to smoke and nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and loss of concentration. They also address the sensations and hand-to-mouth action of smoking.

Vaping is mostly used as a long-term safer substitute for smoking (tobacco harm reduction). It can  help prevent relapse by acting as a smoking substitute to relieve urges to smoke after quitting. Vaping is also used as a short-term quitting aid.

Reviews of the evidence

According the Royal College of Physicians review in 2018 (p.104):

‘The three higher quality reviews all reached similar conclusions … consistent with an approximate doubling of the likelihood of quitting smoking’

Public Health England concluded

‘Recent studies support the Cochrane Review findings that e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking and reduce their cigarette consumption’

Research studies

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs)

Early RCTs with ineffective first generations devices were modestly effective. However, a recent landmark RCT of 900 smokers in the UK found that vaping nicotine with a more efficient second generation device was nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement products like the patch and gum at helping smokers to quit. Read our blog for more here.

User surveys

Millions of smokers have reported quitting using a personal vaporiser in the UK, US and EU. For example, over 6 million people reported quitting smoking with a vaporiser in the European Union in a study in 2014. In the US there were 2.6 million former smokers who had switched completely to vaping in 2016, and 1.5 million in the UK in 2017.

Population studies

Studies in large populations in both the US and UK have found that smokers who use vaporisers to quit have significantly higher quit rates than those who don’t use vaporisers.

National smoking rates

More evidence of the effectiveness of vaping is that smoking rates are falling in countries where vaping is widely available, in some cases such as the US, faster than ever. Many experts feel it is likely that vaping is contributing to the rapid decline. However, in Australia where vaping is heavily restricted, the smoking rate has stalled for the last 3 years (2013-2016).

Data: UK. Annual Population Survey, Office of National Statistics; US. National Health Interview Survey, CDC National Centre for Statistics; Australia. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Anecdotal evidence

There are many thousands of personal stories online of individuals who have quit smoking with a personal vaporiser, such as here and here. These testimonials are not strong scientific evidence, but are important when added to the above evidence from properly conducted research studies.

Daily and longer use more effective

Vaping is most effective when used daily. Recent studies in the US here and here found that daily users were 3-8 times more likely to quit than non-users. Longer use is also associated with increased quitting. A study from the US reported that those who used the devices for at least 2 years were 4 times more likely than non-users to quit.

Some published research studies did not find that vapers were more likely to quit. However, many of these studies were not well conducted and some made important scientific errors, so their conclusions are not considered reliable.

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