Perceptions towards electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation among Stop Smoking Service users

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Sherratt, Frances C ; Newson, Lisa ; Marcus, Michael W ; Field, John K ; Robinson, Jude (2016)

OBJECTIVES: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are promoted as smoking cessation tools, yet they remain unavailable from Stop Smoking Services in England; the debate over their safety and efficacy is ongoing. This study was designed to explore perceptions and reasons for use or non-use of electronic cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, among individuals engaged in Stop Smoking Services. METHODS: Semi-structured telephone interviews were undertaken with twenty participants engaged in Stop Smoking Services in the north-west of England. Participants comprised of both individuals who had tried e-cigarettes (n = 6) and those who had not (n = 14). Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were subject to thematic analysis, which explored participants' beliefs and experiences of e-cigarettes. RESULTS: A thematic analysis of transcripts suggested that the following three superordinate themes were prominent: (1) self-efficacy and beliefs in e-cigarettes; (2) e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid; and (3) cues for e-cigarette use. Participants, particularly never users, were especially concerned regarding e-cigarette efficacy and safety. Overall, participants largely expressed uncertainty regarding e-cigarette safety and efficacy, with some evidence of misunderstanding. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence of uncertainty and misunderstanding regarding information on e-cigarettes highlights the importance of providing smokers with concise, up-to-date information regarding e-cigarettes, enabling smokers to make informed treatment decisions. Furthermore, identification of potential predictors of e-cigarette use can be used to inform Stop Smoking Services provision and future research. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Research suggests that e-cigarettes may help smokers quit smoking, but further studies are needed. Electronic cigarette use in Stop Smoking Services has increased substantially in recent years, although e-cigarettes are currently not regulated. There is debate within the academic community regarding e-cigarette efficacy and safety. What does this study add? Service users interviewed in the current study felt uncertain regarding e-cigarette efficacy and safety. E-cigarette ever users viewed e-cigarettes as effective and safe, more often than never users. Accurate and up-to-date education will enable service users to make informed treatment decisions.
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