Dr Caitlin Notley is a Senior Lecturer in Mental Health, and a Research Fellow of the UK Society for the Study of Addiction. She has more than ten years experience in Addiction research. Her current research focus is on tobacco smoking relapse prevention, and will develop an intervention to support women to stay abstinent from smoking postpartum.
Dr Notley’s research interest in alternative nicotine delivery devices primarily explores social and culturally pertinent aspects of vaping, with a particular focus on the public health potential of vaping for smoking relapse prevention. Of note, in this instance, is the ECtra Study (E Cigarette Trajectories), looking at real world experiences of using e-cigarettes for avoiding relapse to smoking: success or failure, funded by Cancer Research UK.
Caitlin Notley opened by stating: “The e-cigarette has recently become the most popular method of smoking cessation, chosen by people in the general population.”
“Although many people successfully quit smoking, many people then relapse back to smoking, and it’s staying abstinent from smoking which is the really difficult thing to do.”
Notley argues that the difficulty in remaining free from cigarettes comes about due to a number of factors. Firstly, there is the physical dimension of nicotine addiction. There are perceived “benefits” to smoking, such as a reduction in appetite as a factor in weight management.
Then, smokers feel the need for the psychological aspect to their habit. It is perceived as useful during times of crisis, many smokers use cigarettes during times of stress or anxiety. Next, albeit one that is greatly diminished these days, smoking is seen as a “group behaviour”. Smokers associate their habit with sharing a joke, breaking up a day, doing certain activities or linked to certain places.
These, plus the cultural dimension and their personal sense of identity (as a smoker) form very strong ties over and above the simple act of having a cigarette because of desire or addiction.
She talks about vaping as being a disruptive technology, in that “it redefines the landscape of smoking cessation” and is particularly important “in relapse intervention”.
Not only does vaping offer an alternative to smoking through a technology that mimmicks smoking (but is more pleasurable), Notley also discusses the cultural element. Smokers are able to exchange the identity of being “smokers” for that of being “vapers”. She talks about how we have a “strong subcultural element” – something everybody can witness in action at this weekend’s Vapefest.