Vape shops could be 'valuable allies' to NHS

February 8, 2018, University of East Anglia

The NHS should consider working with reputable vape shops to help smokers quit - according to new research from the University of East Anglia, funded by Cancer Research UK.

E-cigarettes are the most popular method of quitting smoking and most are purchased in specialist vape shops.

A new study published today finds that vape shops provide behavioural support which could help people stop smoking and remain smoke free. And health professionals could benefit from understanding the role that vape shops play in reducing smoking.

Britain is home to some 2,000 vape shops, and they are by far the most popular places that the country's estimated 2.9 million vapers buy their e-cigarettes. The industry is estimated to be worth more than £600 million annually in the UK alone.

Researchers looked at how vape shops help smokers quit and remain smoke free.

They undertook interviews with 40 people who switched to e-cigarettes to attempt to quit smoking. They also worked with six shops in a range of locations to observe interactions between staff and customers.

Lead researcher Dr Emma Ward, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Previous evidence suggests that 90 per cent of attempts to quit smoking eventually end in relapse. Smokers are addicted to nicotine, but there are also lots of complex psychosocial behaviours associated with smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy doesn't always address the behavioural and social aspects of smoking, but switching to e-cigarettes can be a really effective way to stop.

Help and advice

"At present there are no e-cigarettes licenced for medicinal use and vape shops are often the 'frontline' for cessation support.

"We found that vape shops provided effective behavioural support to help quitters stay smoke free. Shop assistants were really keen to understand customers' smoking preferences and give tailored advice about the most appropriate products. And they were an ongoing point of contact for practical help.

"An unsatisfying vaping set-up, device malfunction, or a lack of access to vape supplies can trigger a smoking relapse. But support from vape shops can help sustain smoking abstinence. We found that shop assistants trouble shoot with customers if they had relapsed and try and find a solution, such as fixing their device or upping their nicotine strength."

Social support

The research team also studied the vape shop environment and found that they offer an opportunity to socialise and reinforce vaping as an 'identity'.

"Because they are now commonplace on the high street, they're really accessible," said Dr Ward. "Many of the shops market themselves as places for socialising and relaxing with a 'café' feel interior."

The study shows that this sort of informal atmosphere can appeal to those who enjoyed the social aspect of smoking. However vape shops were seen as largely masculine territories.

"Some of the women we spoke to said they didn't feel confident in vape shops, and said that their male partner or a colleague would visit the shops on their behalf. We also saw that men would come in to buy products or ask for advice on behalf of absent female partners."

Working with the NHS

The study concludes that health professionals could capitalise on the success of vape shops by working in partnership to ensure the best outcomes for patients.

Principal Investigator of the study, Dr Caitlin Notley, a Society for the Study of Addiction Research Fellow at UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "Vape shops could be very valuable allies to the NHS in the fight against smoking.

"The Public Health England evidence update released on Tuesday states that 'there is compelling evidence that e-cigarettes be made available to NHS patients'. Although not all ex-smokers in our study wanted a medical route to quitting smoking by vaping, for some people trying an on prescription may be a good introduction. Particularly for those who cannot afford to purchase a start-up kit initially, having a prescription could be very important.

"However, our study shows that it is just as important to offer ongoing support and give advice on which vape set-up to choose, and how best to use e-cigarettes, particularly to help people stay quit in the long term. Vape shops are well placed to provide this type of support.

"Health professionals should consider engaging with the local vaping community to avoid referring clients to shops offering poor customer service or inappropriate sales driven advice. Likewise smoking cessation training for shops could be beneficial.

"Most of the shops were interested in working more closely with . And nearly all of the participating vapers wanted the NHS to promote e-cigarette use including more information for GPs and even e-cigarettes available on prescription.

"Interestingly though, around a third of vapers we spoke to planned to eventually stop using e-cigarettes, which could be in conflict with the vape shops' commercial interests," she added.

The study recommends that future research should evaluate joint working between Stop Smoking Services and vape shops to help smokers achieve and maintain cessation.

Explore further: Switching to vaping not always easy

More information: 'A qualitative exploration of the role of vape shop environments in supporting smoking abstinence' is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on Friday, February 9, 2018.

Related Stories

Switching to vaping not always easy

February 8, 2018
Smokers attempting to quit the habit by vaping or using e-cigarettes do not always find the process plain sailing, according to new University of Otago research published in the international journal, Tobacco Control.

Stopping smoking main reason for vaping

January 31, 2018
A recent survey of vapers found the majority started smoking e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. More than 200 people from across New Zealand took part in the online survey in 2016, led by Dr. Penny Truman from Massey ...

Teens who vape at increased risk for future cigarette smoking

February 7, 2017
Among high school seniors who have never smoked a cigarette, those who vape are more than four times more likely to smoke a cigarette in the following year than their peers who do not vape.

Vapers who continue to smoke are in denial about their addiction and could struggle to kick the habit

June 27, 2017
People who vape as well as smoke traditional cigarettes may find it harder to quit as they don't see themselves as smokers, according to research undertaken by Kingston University.

New research seeks to discover how vaping can help smokers quit

October 18, 2016
The rapid emergence of vaping (e-cigarette use) has led a University of Queensland researcher to seek Australian participants for a large-scale international study.

E-cig use increases risk of beginning tobacco cigarette use in young adults

December 11, 2017
Young adults who use electronic cigarettes are more than four times as likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months as their peers who do not vape, according to new University of Pittsburgh research. The findings ...

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.