Medicalisation of Vaping in the UK? E-cigarette users’ perspectives on the merging of commercial and medical routes to vaping

Emma Ward, Lynne Dawkins, Richard Holland, Ian Pope, Caitlin Notley

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Background: In the UK, most smokers choosing e-cigarettes to quit smoking will access vaping via commercial routes. In recent years, however, a shift towards medicalisation of vaping has become apparent, with public health guidance supporting e-cigarettes for smoking cessation and increased partnership working between healthcare professionals and the vaping industry. To achieve the UK’s Smokefree 2030 target, the UK Government has set out measures to use e-cigarettes in National Health Service (NHS) settings and to move towards streamlining processes to make e-cigarettes available to a million smokers. This article aims to understand acceptability of different approaches by seeking perspectives of people with lived experience of e-cigarette use for smoking cessation. Methods: Mixed methods data collected between March 2018 and March 2019 as part of a broader study of e-cigarette use trajectories (ECtra study). Data here relate to the views of partnership working and medicalisation of vaping extracted from 136 interviews/extended surveys of people who had used e-cigarettes to try to stop smoking. Qualitative data were thematically analysed. Participant ratings of interventions were presented descriptively, and differences in participant characteristics and ratings were reported. Results: Three qualitative themes were identified: pro-partnership, anti-partnership and medicalisation dissonance. Medicalisation was discussed for its potential to reassure smokers about e-cigarette harms and its potential to reach smokers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Concerns were raised about cost-effectiveness, quality of support, conflicts of interest and limiting product choice. Most participants rated interventions involving partnership working as potentially helpful in switching from smoking to vaping. There were no statistically significant associations between age, gender and socioeconomic status, and helpfulness ratings. Conclusion: Both commercial and medical routes to vaping offer perceived benefits to vapers and may complement and reinforce each other to support smoking cessation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Early online date6 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2023


  • e-cigarettes
  • intervention
  • qualitative
  • smoking
  • vaping industry
  • healthcare professionals

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