Stop-smoking services should consider working with reputable vape shops to ensure that people attempting to quit smoking using e-cigarettes receive the highest level of support, research funded by Cancer Research UK suggests.
To understand the potential role that vaping shops could play in quitting support, researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) interviewed 40 smokers who switched to e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit, and observed interactions between staff and customers in six vaping shops.
The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (online, 9 February 2018), showed that shop assistants supported quit attempts through trying to understand customers’ smoking preferences, directing them to the most appropriate product and providing ongoing support.
Lead researcher Emma Ward, from UEA’s Medical School, said: “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.”
The research also highlighted that many vape shops market themselves as places for socialising and have a relaxing ‘cafÃ©’ feel, so are well placed to provide behavioural support to maintain smoking abstinence.
“Because they are now commonplace on the high street, they’re really accessible,” said Ward, although she admitted that some women found the environment very ‘masculine’, “very much like a traditional pub with men joking and discussing hardware and vaping”.
However, overall, the researchers concluded health professionals should consider working in partnership with vaping shops “to ensure best outcomes for clients wanting to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking”.
Principal investigator of the study, Caitlin Notley, a Society for the Study of Addiction Research Fellow at UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said most of the shops were interested in working more closely with health professionals. “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,” she said. “Likewise, smoking-cessation training for shops could be beneficial.”
Public Health England published an evidence review in February 2018 saying that e-cigarettes should be made available on NHS prescription in England and that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should “expedite” licensing of the products as a medicinal quit aid.
A Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesperson said: “We still have concerns over the possible safety of using e-cigarettes long term. We need to ensure non-smokers, especially children and young people are not encouraged to use e-cigarettes. However, we recognise they have a potential role to play in harm reduction by helping smokers reduce their use of tobacco, or as a pathway to other alternative nicotine replacement therapies.”