(See: Barbeau AM, Burda J, Siegel M. Perceived efficacy of e-cigarettes versus nicotine replacement therapy among successful e-cigarette users: a qualitative approach. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice 2013, 8:5.)
The study involved focus groups with 11 electronic cigarette users who were recruited through an ad placed on electronic cigarette internet forums. Ten of the 11 subjects had completely quit smoking using the electronic cigarette. The aim of the study was "to gain qualitative insight into whether e-cigarettes were
effective aids in long-term smoking cessation and why this might be the case, in addition to gaining a greater understanding of their efficacy on reducing cravings and preventing smoking relapse."
The main results were as follows:
"Five main themes were identified that explain why e-cigarettes appear, at least anecdotally, to be efficacious in helping tobacco users quit smoking."
These themes were:
1. Bio-behavioral feedback: "Participants in both focus groups felt that e-cigarette vaping mimicked smoking a real cigarette."
2. Social benefits: "The notion of a vaping community was continually reiterated among participants."
3. Hobby element: "The participants repeatedly discussed vaping as a hobby."
4. Personal identity: "The majority of participants identified themselves as “vapers.” Previously they had defined themselves as “smokers,” and the e-cigarette allowed them to redefine their identity."
5. Difference between smoking cessation and nicotine cessation: "E-cigarettes allowed them to quit smoking, but some participants did not want to quit nicotine, because they enjoy the e-cigarette experience and viewed it as going from a dangerous form of nicotine intake in cigarettes to a safer form in e-cigarettes."
The Rest of the Story
The study concludes as follows:
"Results from these focus groups add to the albeit still limited research base regarding e-cigarettes and their usefulness as smoking cessation tools. The information gained provides new insights into the social and group dynamics that may underlie the reasons why NRT has such low observed rates of effectiveness, and why e-cigarettes, at least anecdotally, appear to be more effective for many vapers. Most notably, these include e-cigarettes becoming part of the vaper’s social identity, the recognition of vaping as a hobby, and the ability of these devices to aid in smoking cessation without complete nicotine cessation."
"These insights suggest that health practitioners should pay increased attention to the behavioral and social components of smoking addiction, many of which are not addressed by conventional NRTs, as noted by participants in this study. Greater understanding of these components could lead to more effective approaches to treating cigarette addiction, as the e-cigarette users in our focus groups experienced alleviation of withdrawal symptoms and achieved smoking cessation more effectively than they had with conventional NRT."