Vaping Works – UCL Study

Posted 20th September 2016 by Dave Cross
The team responsible for the annual Smoking Toolkit Study, at University College London, have extended their work by analyzing all of the data amassed over the period from 2006 to 2016. The results indicate vaping works as a smoking cessation tool.

The team at UCL includes Professors Robert West and Susan Michie, along with research fellows Emma Beard and Jamie Brown. Their paper, Association between electronic cigarette use and changes in quit attempts, success of quit attempts, use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and use of stop smoking services in England: time series analysis of population trends, is published in the British Medical Journal.

The team carries out an annual survey looking at trends and rates related to smoking quit attempts, products and services used. Although they confess that the nature of the study comes with limitations and makes it difficult to say with certainty that there’s a cause and effect, they do say that vaping is a major contributor in effective smoking quit attempts.

The headline figures from the team are:

  • For every one percent rise in the number of smokers attempting to quit using electronic cigarettes there’s an almost 1% increase in the success rate of quitting traditional tobacco cigarettes.
  • There is also confirmation of the impact vaping has on nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) sales, as electronic cigarette use increased in smokers trying to quit their use of prescribed NRT fell.
  • Around 18,000 people have successfully quit smoking during 2015 thanks to them becoming vapers. The team believes that vaping will make them long term quitters.
  • While vaping hasn’t increased the number of people trying to quit smoking, electronic cigarettes have improved the numbers of people doing it successfully.
  • Approximately 8 million people have attempted to quit smoking during the period of the study.
  • Around 2.8 million people currently use electronic cigarettes.

Robert West commented: “The increased prevalence of e-cigarettes in England does not appear to have been associated with a detectable change in attempts to stop smoking. However, the increase in e-cigarette use has been associated with an increase in success of quit attempts.”

“England is sometimes singled out as being too positive in its attitude to e-cigarettes. These data suggest that our relatively liberal regulation of e-cigarettes is probably justified,” West continued.


Cancer Research UK’s Linda Bauld said: "The British public have voted with their feet and are choosing to use e-cigarettes. This is a positive choice, and we should promote it."

Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham, wrote in the British Medical Journal: “Successful quitting through substitution with electronic cigarettes is a likely contributor to the falling prevalence of smoking. The challenge for public health is to embrace the potential of this new technology, and put it to full use.”

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