Published: 7 November 2014

Study shows more guidance needed for smokers using e-cigarettes

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have shown that more than half of smokers using the Stop Smoking Service on Merseyside have tried electronic cigarettes, despite many reporting uncertainty about their safety and effectiveness.

The study highlighted that users of products not available through official services, should be encouraged to seek reliable information and guidance about interventions they are using to stop smoking.

Researchers quizzed more than 320 smokers from the Roy Castle ‘FagEnds’ study to understand what smokers thought about the e-cigarettes and how many people were using them over more traditional products offered by ‘stop smoking’ services.

Better education

Despite more than half of participants using e-cigarettes, smokers were generally negative in their reaction towards them, possibly due to the widely documented uncertainties about safety and effectiveness in helping smokers to successfully break their addiction.

Some also viewed using e-cigarettes as an extension of smoking and perceived them as an inferior tool for helping to quit smoking. Additionally, some participants were misinformed of or misunderstood the risks associated with e-cigarettes.

Frances Sherratt, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, said: “Our results show that electronic cigarettes are commonly used by smokers wanting to quit and seek help through the Stop Smoking Services.

“This study highlights the need for better education regarding e-cigarettes, to enable smokers to make balanced, informed smoking cessation treatment decisions to help them quit.”

Aid to quitting

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation who helped fund the research, said: “While the research suggests that a high proportion of smokers try e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting, it also shows that many recognise their effectiveness is limited compared to more conventional, proven techniques.

“Lingering issues around their safety and long-term health impact also continue to affect public opinion. People are more likely to be successful with the tailored, one-to-one support of a quit smoking professional and this seems to have been understood by the majority of those surveyed.”

Dr Karen Kennedy, director of the National Cancer Research Institute, said: “This research provides an interesting insight into how many, and why, smokers use e-cigarettes. Tobacco is the single biggest cause of preventable cancer deaths, so understanding how smokers can be better helped in breaking the addiction is extremely valuable in reducing cancer deaths.”

The research, presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference, is supported by Liverpool Primary Care Trust / Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

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