This article was written by Louis Cooper and all opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
E-cigarettes have and will save millions of lives. There, I, said it! Doctors, officials and politicians have deafened the vaping industry with their silence. And the select few that have chosen to speak out have done so widely at the expense of e-cigarettes. Uninformed and in my opinion, negligent officials have called for bans without justification, Members of European Parliament have sneaked a whole stream of red tape in regulation decided in secretive back-room negotiations and doctors on the payroll of big tobacco companies have conducted bogus studies only to benefit corporations. This is a story of corruption, where the truth has lost all its meaning amongst the biggest revolution in tobacco history.
The e-cigarette industry has seen a huge influx of publicity over the past few months, with a wide and questionable spectrum of claims being made; but how much is indeed true? After playing witness to far too many absurd headlines and a whirlwind of controversy, here at Vapourlites, we decided to stop taking a backseat and create our own survey that would give the population some real answers, from the people that matter. So we asked the vaping community, the people who actually use e-cigarettes every day, about their experience. Because, let’s face it, who’s actually asked them?
We organised an online survey to be completed over three months, using a random sample of e-cigarette users of all ages. The qualifying characteristic of all respondents was that they are current e-cigarette users. The sample size was 116 people as the population size of all e-cigarette users is a very large number and it would not be possible to survey the whole population. To calculate the statistical accuracy of the sample so that generalisations could be drawn from the sample results, we measured the error level at a confidence level of 90%. There is an estimated sample population of 2.6 million adults in Great Britain using e-cigarettes, which means that with a 90% confidence level our results carry 7.7% error level. This means that further research on a larger sample is required to quantify our results, although our preliminary results provide an interesting snapshot of the e-cigarette industry.
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3.1 Smoking Cessation effectiveness
One of the biggest findings to come out of our data was that 0% of respondents transitioned to smoking after taking up vaping. This figure is remarkable, demonstrating that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking. This claim is one of the pillars of the anti-vaping argument alongside being attractive to children. Another accusation is that e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking.
Our research found that even though nearly 21% of people continued to smoke alongside vaping, 77% of respondents who had took up vaping completely stopped smoking regular cigarettes altogether. Our survey, therefore indicates that e-cigarettes are effective as a smoking cessation tool, helping over three quarters of respondents quit smoking for good. This is a phenomenal statistic that is stubbornly often overlooked. This challenges the results found by the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California. They tested a group of smokers and the probability of quitting after “ever” using e-cigarettes against those who “never” used e-cigarettes. The results proposed by the research suggested that smokers were at an increased risk of not quitting after “ever” using e-cigarettes. The study itself was slammed by Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association claiming that “Asking smokers about their 'ever use' of a product, and then somehow attributing that 'ever use' to their subsequent success or failure to quit smoking months or years down the line, is dishonest and unethical". And it’s true, how frequent is “ever” use? Is it every day? Once or twice is more likely in the case of this suspicious study.
Of 116 vapers, 91.5% were previously smokers or heavy smokers. 5% were social smokers and only 3.5% were not smokers at all. This shows that only 1 in 30 vapers did not previously smoke and 9 out of 10 vapers were smokers before using e-cigarettes.
Almost 86% of respondents described their journey from cigarettes to vaping as “Great, would never look back and unlikely to smoke again”; demonstrating an overwhelming positive experience for the majority of e-cigarette users after switching. The results are a breath of fresh air as many people who try to quit smoking using traditional nicotine replacement remedies or go cold turkey complain about how bad their quitting experience is, it just doesn’t work for them.
3.2 Health and fitness
Other interesting elements we learnt from the vaping survey was that 45% of respondents noticed a massive improvement in their general health and fitness. 91% of responses showing a positive change in their health and fitness after switching from smoking cigarettes to vaping. And although less than 9% had noticed no difference, no one's health had deteriorated after using e-cigarettes. This implies that e-cigarette vapour does not carry the damaging effects that we know cigarette smoke causes and in many cases could lead people to being more physically active as a result. This of course is not scientific or conclusive proof that e-cigarette vapour is not harmful to your health, but supports the findings of previous peer-reviewed studies that have shown e-cigarette vapour is less toxic than regular air and does not damage airway tissue viability.
Results gathered had shown that 67% of respondents believed they were financially better off whilst vaping instead of smoking. Only 6% of respondents answered that they were worse off financially and 27% believed they were experiencing the same financial burden. Packs of cigarettes are estimated to cost £15 by 2020, so e-cigarettes are a cheaper alternative to tobacco cigarettes in most cases. The third of people who spent more on e-cigarette equipment could be considered enthusiasts who have developed an appreciation for vaping, showing that quitting smoking can be an enjoyable experience. This might indicate that almost a third of vapers surveyed were enthusiasts, with a tendency to spend more on advanced equipment.
3.4 Shopping habits
Almost 60% of people had little to no knowledge of vaping before purchasing, suggesting that there is an urgent need for more informative advertising to educate people; as with the majority of ex-smokers, there is a lack of understanding of how to vape and what the benefits of e-cigarettes may have.
The main reason smokers switched to vaping was because of health, with 60% of respondents indicating this was a significant factor above all else, including money or social pressures. Nearly 16% stated that finances were the main reason for starting vaping and only 4% said social pressure. The remaining 20% answered for other reasons. This goes against a common view held by the anti-vaping movement which assumes people start vaping because it is a social activity. No! It is much more than that, it is a solution.
Our research has made a statement. And if the figures don’t speak for themselves, then this is the message. E-cigarettes are effective in helping users stop smoking and do not lead people to smoke. This is clear, with a 77% of vapers quitting cigarettes altogether. Their benefits can no longer be ignored. Proposals of e-cigarettes being prescribed on the NHS are being discussed, while the Tobacco Products Directive which will see a variety of absurd, unrealistic and impossible restrictions enforced is being deliberated in Parliament. It is a contradiction unseen in any other industry. And what baffles me is the sheer opposition e-cigarettes have faced every step of the way, when in fact e-cigarettes are making a positive change to millions if not a billion lives. It may not be the cure to cancer, but if anything it is a preventative measure by successfully getting people off tobacco (a known cause of cancer). We would like everyone to stop skirting around the issue and join us in embracing e-cigarettes. Then, one day, we will stub out cigarettes for good.
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