The question they posed themselves: “Is socioeconomic position associated with use of e-cigarettes among those who formerly smoked, and has use e-cigarette use changed over time?”
The team believe monitoring the situation is important as, “without the benefit of protecting against relapse to smoking, their long-term use is likely to be harmful.”
To answer it, they analysed data obtained from almost 35,000 former smokers who had been smoke-free for at least one year.
Respondents were classified according to socioeconomic position:
“Living in social housing has been reported to be an independent risk factor for smoking in England. Therefore, sensitivity analyses were conducted with housing tenure as an alternative measure of socioeconomic position. This measure was collapsed to 2 groups, social housing (local authority or housing association) and other (mortgage bought, owned outright, private renting, and other).”
The team noted vaping increased among all participants during the five years covered, “but was highest among those with lower socioeconomic position.”
They also observed that “post-cessation initiation of e-cigarettes” (taking up vaping after successfully quitting smoking), “has increased over time but is not likely to affect smoking-related health inequalities because there were no differences by socioeconomic position.”
The results contrasted with those from the United States, “in which e-cigarettes are similarly popular, [but] e-cigarette use is more likely among individuals with socioeconomic advantage who used to smoke.”
The team believe the results are likely to reflect the continued use of e-cigarettes after smoking cessation and that this explains increased usage.
“Such socioeconomic patterning in e-cigarette use is important, considering that studies have shown that those who formerly smoked and now vape reported greater confidence in not smoking compared with those who do not vape.”
An increase in the number of older vapers (mean age, 63.6 years) was explained as they, “may have taken up e-cigarettes to prevent relapse to tobacco smoking or because of the attractive nicotine delivery properties and decreased harm profile of the devices.”
“Given that these individuals had maintained abstinence from smoking without any assistance from e-cigarettes, it is plausible that they would have been able to remain abstinent in their absence.”