The study, published in scientific journal Addiction, used data from the Smoking Toolkit, a series of monthly surveys of households in England aged 16 and above that date back to 2006.
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The number of smokers using e-cigarettes to quit levelled out around four years ago, as did the success rate of quitting.
By assessing 50,598 smokers between 2006 and 2017, the researchers concluded that in 2017, between 50,700 and 69,930 smokers quit who would have likely continued had they not started vaping.
The scientists investigated the connection between smokers’ current use of e-cigarettes and their use of e-cigarettes while attempting to quit, in addition to their number of quit attempts.
The team also assessed the participants’ quitting success rate and the quantity of cigarettes they would typically smoke.
The researchers took several potentially influential factors into account, including the affordability of tobacco cigarettes and seasonality.
Dr Emma Beard, senior research associate at UCL and lead author of the study, explained the study is further evidence that vaping can help smokers to quit.
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“This study builds on population surveys and clinical trials that find e-cigarettes can help smokers to stop,” Dr Beard said.
“England seems to have found a sensible balance between regulation and promotion of e-cigarettes.”
Dr Beard added that marketing of e-cigarettes is “tightly controlled”, so very few people who have never smoked are using e-cigarettes.
“Millions of smokers are using them to try to stop smoking or to cut down the amount they smoke.”
Despite the popularity of e-cigarettes in recent years, little is known about the long-term effects of regular vaping.
George Butterworth, senior policy manager at Cancer Research UK, warned that as e-cigarettes are a “relatively new product”, they are not “risk free”.
“We don’t yet know their long-term impact,” Mr Butterworth said. “We strongly discourage non-smokers from using them.
“But research shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco and can help people to stop smoking, so it’s good that over 50,000 people managed to give up in 2017.”
Mr Butterworth advised anyone who is trying to quit smoking to seek support from a Stop Smoking Service. To find your local Stop Smoking Service, visit the NHS website here.
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