Research: The Benefit of Vapers

Posted 11th January 2019 by Dave Cross
A commentary in this month’s Harm Reduction journal asks, “What is the value of peer involvement in advancing tobacco harm reduction?” The authors argue that involving vapers in during the various stages of research can lead to benefits for researchers – and improve society’s understanding of the impact and use of vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool.

The University of East Anglia’s Caitlin Notley is the lead author, and constructed the commentary in conjunction with Sharon Cox from the Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research, the New Nicotine Alliance’s Sarah Jakes, and Louise Ross from the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.

They argue: “Because vaping is so different from other types of tobacco cessation support, for those researchers who have engaged with consumers (and unfortunately this is still not common practice), the assistance offered has been especially valuable in advice around the array of available products, including practical advice, e.g. choice of products, e-liquid flavours, device battery life and real-world patterns of use.”

Regular readers of POTV news will recall the volume of research papers (mainly from the USA) we’ve covered that were flawed from the outset due to academics not appreciating how people in the real world vape. We strongly support this paper’s call for more end user involvement.

The U.K. has led the way in supporting vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool due to the efforts of vapers: “Despite the lack of early research endorsement and the absence of health messaging on e-cigarette use, smokers experimented with them anyway, with many making the switch and quitting smoking completely of their own accord.”

Sarah Jakes’ role in developing the acceptance of vapers playing a role in research design should not be undervalued. As a vaper herself, she has worked with the University of East Anglia and the CRUK funded ECtra study. Currently, Sarah is “involved in feasibility research at London South Bank University, offering e-cigarettes to homeless smokers. Her involvement ranges from device advice through to helping to train homeless support staff with little or no experience with vaping.”

Researchers have valued the NNA’s Chair’s contributions: “The advice offered provides expertise that is practical, accessible and reassuring to those undertaking research in the real world.”

The process has highlighted areas that academics need to consider in the future, should they wish to include vapers in their work too. The team write: “For vapers without previous research experience, entering the research space is initially a daunting prospect. Communications between researchers can be full of unfamiliar jargon and acronyms, and research concepts may be completely alien.”

The paper offers suggestions for things to consider, making the process more productive for vapers and researchers. It also suggests that agencies, such as quit services, could use the experience vapers hold.

The paper cites one quit smoking advisor, who observed: “Vapers are becoming stop smoking advisors. Unlike those who had quit smoking with licensed medication, those who quit with vaping became powerful advocates for switching among their friends and family, sharing their devices and giving encouragement to those still smoking to try vaping.”

They conclude: “In future, we hope to see vapers as advocates advancing the research agenda through posing new research questions. The value of peer involvement in tobacco harm reduction is that, through interdisciplinary research, equally valuing the input of ‘experts by experience’ with academic specialisms, we will reach evidence-based answers to important research questions exploring what is essentially a peer-led phenomenon, with unprecedented potential for harm reduction.”



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