Perceptual and experiential factors in switching to ecigarettes

Posted 27th July 2016 by Dave Cross
Doctor Christopher Russell spoke about "Perceptual and experiential factors explaining how 4,235 individuals initiated and established e-cigarette use in place of cigarette smoking" at the Global Forum on Nicotine. Russell works at the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) in the United Kingdom.

The CSUR specialises in large and small-scale research in a number of areas related to substance use and abuse, including nicotine, using a team made up of sociologists and psychologists. Russell is a behavi​oural psychologist at CSUR and is mainly concerned with investigating the product factors and psychosocial factors that drive behaviour switching – from smoking to vaping, for example.

Chris has been working with vapers over the last eighteen months, looking at how successful they were at quitting smoking by using e-cigarettes. He is hoping to use the results of his study to pass on help and advice to current smokers, enabling them to make successful quit attempts too.

The Doctor balances up the great news that vaping has helped so many escape from tobacco-related disease but tempers that with the knowledge that seven in every ten quit attempts with an ecig are not carried through to completion. The smokers relapse and take with them a memory of vaping not leading to success.

Chris believes the way forward is to connect vapers with smokers to produce a sharing of knowledge and how to attempt to quit with a positive experience leading to triumph. For far too long, vapers have been told that their anecdotal evidence of quitting counts for little within the scientific or public health communities. Russell supports the collecting and celebrating this accumulated knowledge: “Vaping anecdotes, when supplied in their thousands, become a reliable, credible source of information about the ways in which e-cigarettes have enabled people to quit smoking.”

He offers up what vapers believe are the eight most important pieces of information to share:

  • Don’t expect miracles; do what you can do. 

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. 

  • Small steps taken with purpose are better than impractical giant leaps. 

  • If you smoke, don’t beat yourself up, it happens. Just go again. 

  • Every cigarette less is an achievement; going again after a slip is a bigger achievement. 

  • Define yourself by your achievements, not your failures. 

  • Don’t measure how far you have to go; be mindful of how far you have come. 

  • Always be mindful of the harms of smoking that are being avoided by vaping instead. 


He concludes with an inspirational quote from Jack Henningfield of Primary Associates: “The insights coming from vapour users and vape shops as to how to reach and help people who seemed unreachable and unhelped by more traditional smoking cessation efforts is fascinating...a breath of fresh air into this area of public health.”

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker