According to a report by the World Health Organisation, there is not enough evidence to show that people can successfully quit smoking by switching to e-cigs. They recommend that all governments impose severe restrictions, including banning e-cig flavourings. WHO also advises governments against making any claims that vaping can help their citizens give up tobacco smoking. Remember- this is from an organisation whose aim is to support the “promotion and protection of health” for people around the world.
The WHO’s credibility as promoters of public health sometimes needs to be questioned though. It was severely dented in 2017 following a public relations disaster when they appointed Robert Mugabe as their “goodwill ambassador” Critics pointed out that under Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s healthcare system had collapsed and he travelled abroad to receive the expensive medical treatment that was denied to his citizens. The WHO was forced to backtrack and reverse their badly-judged decision.
Last month, research by the University of East Anglia showed that vaping does work to help smokers quit- and stay quit. The research team held extensive in-depth interviews with vapers, where they asked them about their vaping histories and found that around 10% of them had quit smoking accidentally. Some of the vapers surveyed hadn’t even intended to quit completely and had started vaping either out of curiosity or as a way to cut down. Many said that they had enjoyed smoking cigarettes and hadn’t actually intended to quit at all. That’s one in the eye for the WHO.
“Accidental quitting” appears to be a fairly common experience for many vapers; a look on vaping forums where users share their vaping histories confirms that quitting smoking using e-cigs was a fairly painless experience for many people. Many of them had even done it unintentionally. This anecdotal evidence from accidental quitters is borne out by my own experience of switching to vaping.
I was a stubborn smoker for nearly 36 years of my life. Cigarettes were like old friends to me- constant companions to help me through hard times. They were also there to accompany a beer during merrier times. Every year when National No Smoking Day came around, I smoked more than I normally did as a gesture of defiance. Nobody was going to tell me what to do and I ignored all the nagging from family members imploring me to quit. I loved smoking- it was enjoyable, therapeutic and a big part of who I was. Inevitably, all of my best mates were smokers too. Huddling together in smoking shelters during the cold winter months after the indoor smoking ban only made our friendships stronger.
In 2013, losing one of these good friends to lung cancer scared me. I decided that I needed to try cutting down my 30 a day habit. As well as claiming the life of my friend, smoking had made me prone to chest infections and I was constantly coughing and wheezing, but I still didn’t want to quit completely because I enjoyed smoking. I happened to read an interview where Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays mentioned his use of e-cigs and I figured that if they had worked for someone with Shaun’s reputation, then they might be helpful for me, too.
I visited a local vaping shop, received some good advice and emerged with a basic kit of a CE4, a variable voltage battery and a couple of bottles of tobacco flavoured e-liquid. For a week afterwards I was dual fuelling; I kept my papers, tobacco and lighter in my pocket, but cut down my smoking by replacing the odd cigarette with a few toots on my shiny new e-cig. At the end of that first week, I was sitting at home watching TV on my own and habitually started to roll a sneaky cigarette. Suddenly I thought to myself “what’s the point of doing this?” Like a bolt of lightning, this was my moment of realisation. I was actually enjoying vaping more than smoking. It was more convenient, cheaper and tasted much better.
From that moment onwards, every time I tried to light up a rollie it tasted bitter and foul- just like licking an ashtray. A couple of days later, I actually felt no qualms about waving goodbye to my tobacco and papers when I eventually threw them in the bin. I had accidentally made the switch and had become a committed vaper. Now, nearly five years later, I still feel grateful to Shaun Ryder.
We’d be interested to hear from you about your own experiences of switching to vaping. Did you make an accidental switch or were you determined to quit from the start? Did you switch instantly or did you smoke cigarettes as well as vaping for a while afterwards?