Why Vaping Works

Sensory experiences and cues among E-cigarette users” has been published in Harm Reduction Journal, documenting the research led by Pasquale Caponnetto at the Università di Catania [link].

A previous scientific study [link] found that cigarette smoking is reinforced by stimulating a variety of senses. One of the problems faced by traditional cessation products like patches, inhalers, and gum (NRT) is that they don’t deliver this. Nor do they give the user the social aspect experienced when smoking, do you remember the last time you stood outside having a chat with a crowd all using some nicotine gum?

smoking vs vapingCaponnetto’s team report that smokers find certain things about using cigarettes desirable and satisfying. Such reinforcing aspects include throat hit, a sense of heat or coolness in the upper and lower airways, and the flavour.

They write: “Many users of e-cigarettes are current or former smokers who report using them long-term as an alternative to CTCs, to reduce cigarette consumption or quit smoking, to relieve tobacco withdrawal symptoms, and/or to continue having a ‘smoking experience without smoking’.”

The team looked at the extent and quality of respiratory sensations and sensory-related smoking cues associated with using e-cigarettes. Participants in the research had previously tried NRTs without success, “but were maintaining cessation with a sensory stimulating e-cigarette.”

They also examined, “the value participants placed on the sensory aspects of e-cigarette use to influence cessation outcomes.”

The researchers advertised for participants on the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) Facebook page [link]. The call resulted in 156 people offering to help. To be eligible to take part they needed to be current vapers, had last smoked over three months previously, and had to have attempted to quit smoking at least once by using Varenicline, Buproprion, or nicotine gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray, or patch.

The participants:

  • The majority of participants began smoking before age 18
  • Most smoked for at least 16 years
  • About half reported smoking more than 20 cigarettes per day
  • The vast majority of the sample identified as “White”
  • Most were aged 45–54
  • There were slightly more females

They reported feeling sensations when vaping and noted that having a sensation in the throat was the most popular.

The proportion of responses to the statement, “The feeling of the vapour when I used my e-cigarette is important to me”:

  • not at all (5.03%)
  • very little (5.66%)
  • a little (5.03%)
  • moderately (17.61%)
  • a lot (18.87%)
  • quite a lot (25.16%)
  • extremely (22.64%)

In total, 84% rated the sensation as moderately to extremely important to them successfully quitting smoking. In addition, “the sensation of blowing out vapour and the flavours reinforced cessation beyond nicotine replacement alone.”

Add in the feel of the mod and atomiser in the hand, and the social aspect to vaping, it isn’t hard to see how this consumer-driven phenomenon has driven vaping to become a stunning success story.

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