Associations between vaping and relapse to smoking: preliminary findings from a longitudinal survey in the UK

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BACKGROUND: Most smokers attempting to quit relapse. There is little evidence whether the use of e-cigarettes ('vaping') increases or decreases relapse. This study aimed to assess 1) whether vaping predicted relapse among ex-smokers, and 2) among ex-smokers who vaped, whether vaping characteristics predicted relapse.

METHODS: Longitudinal web-based survey of smokers, recent ex-smokers and vapers in the UK, baseline in May/June 2016 (n = 3334), follow-up in September 2017 (n = 1720). Those abstinent from smoking ≥ 2 months at baseline and followed up were included. Aim 1: Relapse during follow-up was regressed onto baseline vaping status, age, gender, income, nicotine replacement therapy use and time quit smoking (n = 374). Aim 2: Relapse was regressed onto baseline vaping frequency, device type, nicotine strength and time quit smoking (n = 159).

RESULTS: Overall, 39.6% relapsed. Compared with never use (35.9%), past/ever (45.9%; adjOR = 1.13; 95% CI, 0.61-2.07) and daily vaping (34.5%; adjOR = 0.61; 95% CI, 0.61-1.89) had similar odds of relapse, for non-daily vaping evidence of increased relapse was inconclusive (65.0%; adjOR = 2.45; 95% CI, 0.85-7.08). Among vapers, non-daily vaping was associated with higher relapse than daily vaping (adjOR = 3.88; 95% CI, 1.10-13.62). Compared with modular devices (18.9% relapse), tank models (45.6%; adjOR = 3.63; 95% CI, 1.33-9.95) were associated with increased relapse; evidence was unclear for disposable/cartridge refillable devices (41.9%; adjOR = 2.83; 95% CI, 0.90-8.95). Nicotine strength had no clear association with relapse.

CONCLUSION: Relapse to smoking is likely to be more common among ex-smokers vaping infrequently or using less advanced devices. Research into the effects of vaping on relapse needs to consider vaping characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number76
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
Early online date30 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2019


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