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Vaping as an alternative to smoking relapse following brief lapse

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journal contribution
posted on 2019-07-25, 15:39 authored by C Notley, E Ward, L Dawkins, R Holland, S Jakes
Background and Aims E‐cigarettes are the most popular aid to quitting smoking in the UK. Although many smokers quit, relapse is common. Historically, the literature has reported strong associations between tobacco smoking lapse and relapse following a quit attempt. This article aims to explore how smoking lapse is experienced by those who vape to quit smoking. Design and Methods A purposive sample of 40 UK vapers were matched to a sampling frame from a representative sample of UK quitters. Semi‐structured qualitative interviews were conducted. Data were thematically analysed iteratively situating reported experiences of smoking lapse within narrative descriptions of vaping. Iterative categorization was used as a technique to further explore a subset of data specifically focused on smoking lapse. Results Analysis revealed that smoking lapse is perceived qualitatively differently when using e‐cigarettes as compared to past quit attempts. Having the pleasurable alternative of vaping meant that full relapse to smoking was not inevitable. Instead, lapses were perceived as ‘permissive’ or ‘purposive’, intentional and contextualised, or for some as unintentional, with the resulting emotional response negatively reinforcing ongoing tobacco smoking abstinence. Discussion and Conclusions Our novel findings suggest that the role of tobacco smoking lapse in relation to relapse status may be theoretically redefined, drawing on data from vapers. These findings question the utility of previous theories of the role of smoking lapse in the relapse process. For ex‐smokers, vaping offers a pleasurable, viable pharmacological, but also social and psychological, substitution option for smoking and potentially powerfully alters the experience and threat of any lapse.


This work was supported by a project grant from Cancer Research UK, (C54889/A22732). The lead author was a Research Fellow of the Society for the Study of Addiction at the time of undertaking the research.



Drug and Alcohol Review, 2019, 38(1), pp. 68-75

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF LIFE SCIENCES/School of Medicine/Department of Medical Education (Pre Nov 2017)


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Drug and Alcohol Review


Wiley for Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs



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Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article at the publisher’s website: Appendix S1. Key analytical themes (IC themes). Appendix S2. Glossary of analytical terms.



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