An electronic cigarette pilot scheme conducted by the University of East Anglia has met with resounding success leaving hopes it could be adopted nationally. Led by Professor Caitlin Notley at the Norwich Medical School, the scheme discovered that handing out starter kit vouchers helped even hardened smokers break their tobacco habit.
Who was involved in the pilot study?
Norfolk County Council’s Public Health department funded the University of East Anglia research team. They worked with GPs and the NHS stop smoking service to run the pilot vape shop voucher scheme.
What did Professor Caitlin Notley say?
Lead researcher and addiction expert Professor Caitlin Notley said: “Research shows that vaping is an effective way of quitting smoking, compared to nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum. E-cigarettes or vapes are now the most popular way of stopping smoking.
“Our research has previously shown that they may be particularly helpful in helping people to not only quit but to stay quit for good.
“We wanted to see whether GPs giving out vape shop vouchers, alongside support from the stop smoking service, can help smokers quit. We particularly wanted to target vulnerable and disadvantaged smokers who had failed to quit smoking by other means.”
What were the results of the pilot study?
An evaluation of the scheme showed it was a big success – with 42% of the entrenched smokers who were referred to it and redeemed their vape voucher having quit within a month.
Due to the success of the pilot, the scheme has been rolled out across Norfolk and the research team hopes it could be rolled out nationally to help more smokers quit.
What did Norfolk County Council’s Public Health department think?
Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s Director of Public Health, welcomed the collaboration with UEA on this council-led initiative to further develop services to support people to quit smoking.
Were these smokers likely to vape anyway?
No. Candidates for the scheme were selected because they had tried and failed to quit smoking previously.
They also had co-morbidities which put them at greater risk of tobacco-related disease and death.
Is Norfolk special in any way?
Yes, if you listen to Alan Partridge.
Also, the study focussed on Great Yarmouth where the adult smoking rate (21%) far outstrips the smoking rate in the rest of Norfolk (14%) and across the UK (15%).
How many people successfully switched to vaping?
From the 668 taking part, 340 redeemed their voucher and became vapers. This rate far exceeds successes with traditional quit smoking methods.
Professor Caitlin Notley said: “This innovative approach saw the NHS local stop smoking service, vape retailers and researchers working together, recognising that other forms of smoking cessation support do not work for everyone.
“This scheme enabled 42 per cent of entrenched smokers who redeemed a voucher to have successfully quit smoking at four weeks. This is especially important because it helped those who have tried and failed to quit smoking many times to move away from tobacco.
“Overall, the project was well received by smokers as it offered an affordable route into vaping. GPs supported the scheme and appreciated being able to offer an alternative to entrenched smokers.”
Where can I read the published research paper?
‘A pilot e-cigarette voucher scheme in a rural county of the United Kingdom’ was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research and can be read by clicking on the title.