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Summary

Background:  Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) have experienced a rapid growth in popularity but little is known about how they are used.

Aim:  The aim of this study was to identify the e-cig products used by experienced e-cig users, their pattern of e-cig use and the impact on tobacco use.

Method:  Face-to-face survey of 104 experienced e-cig users.

Results:  Of all the e-cig users, 78% had not used any tobacco in the prior 30 days. They had previously smoked an average of 25 cigarettes per day, and had tried to quit smoking an average of nine times before they started using e-cigs. Two-thirds had previously tried to quit smoking using an FDA-approved smoking cessation medication. The majority of the sample had used e-cigs daily for at least a year. Three quarters started using e-cigs with the intention of quitting smoking and almost all felt that the e-cig had helped them to succeed in quitting smoking. Two-thirds used e-cig liquid with a medium to high concentration of nicotine (13 mg +). Only 8% were using the most widely sold types of cigarette-sized e-cigs that are typically powered by a single 3.7 volt battery. Instead most used e-cigs designed to enable the atomizer to more consistently achieve a hotter more intense vapour.

Conclusion:  Until we have more evidence on the safety and efficacy of e-cigs for smoking cessation, smokers should be advised to use proven treatments (e.g. counselling and FDA-approved medicines). However, for those who have successfully switched to e-cigs, the priority should be staying off cigarettes, rather than quitting e-cigs.