Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago and Canada’s University of Waterloo have discovered that alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes are helping to reduce smoking and could achieve an end to the epidemic of ill health and death caused by smoking. The study has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Richard Edwards, James Stanley, Andrew Waa, and Maddie White (Otago) worked with Susan Kaai, Janine Ouimet, Anne Quah, and Geoffrey Fong (Waterloo) to look at vaping in New Zealand.
They chose New Zealand as the use of e-cigarettes is increasing, and the country has implemented most of the core tobacco control measures of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Also, despite a relatively low and declining smoking prevalence, there is a disparity in who still smokes – with most being poor and/or members of the Māori community.
Thanks to a successful court case in 2018, access to vaping products was opened up following years of being a banned product.
The team wanted to find out about patterns of use and knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about e-cigarettes among a nationally representative sample of smokers and ex-smokers through computer-aided telephone interview surveys. In total, 1155 Wave 1 (August 2016 to April 2017) participants consisted of 910 smokers and 245 ex-smokers, including 386 identifying as Māori. Wave 2 (June to December 2018) numbered 1020 participants, broken down as 726 smokers and 294 ex-smokers, including 394 identifying as Māori.
- Ever used a vape product increased from Wave 1 (59.4%) to Wave 2 (76.9%)
- Current use among ex-smokers was substantially higher than among smokers, 28.8% for ex-smokers vs. 20.0% for smokers
- Daily use results were more substantial, 22.6% for ex-smokers vs. 7.9% for smokers
- 86.4% used third generation (rechargeable with a refillable tank) devices
- Flavour use was reported as one flavour (37.3%), two flavours (29.5%), and three or more flavours (33.2%)
- Most popular flavours were fruit (39.4%), tobacco (23.8%), candy/sweet/dessert (16.6%), and menthol/mint (11.3%)
The most popular reasons given for vaping were to cut down smoking or to quit using tobacco altogether. The most popular reasons to persist with vaping was that it saved money and was enjoyable.
The authors write: “These findings, together with the high proportion of users who said they vaped as an aid to quit smoking, suggests that e-cigarettes may be supporting quitting among a significant number of people who smoke in New Zealand.”
“The high prevalence of use of flavours and the wide range of flavours used by participants aligns with the findings of other studies and suggests that if a policy aim is to promote smokers to use e-cigarettes to quit or to switch to vaping, making vaping products available in multiple flavours may encourage their use by smokers,” they added.