Redefining understanding of tobacco smoking lapse in the context of vaping

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aims: Although many smokers manage to quit, in the general population the majority of quit attempts result in eventual relapse back to smoking. Most vapers state that they use e-cigarettes for smoking cessation or to cut down from smoking (McNeill et al, 2015). Many have periods of dual use with tobacco smoking before eventually quitting smoking. This presentation uses subjective data from vapers to redefine understanding of smoking lapse.

Methods: Combined qualitative analysis using thematic coding with ethnographic observation and discourse analysis techniques. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 40 participants, complemented by innovative photo elicitation methodology to specifically examine the social contexts and meaning of e cigarette use in the daily lives of consumers. Data were iteratively analysed to situate experiences of smoking lapse within trajectories of e cigarette use.

Results: Variable aspects of e cigarettes offer the ex-smoker a unique experience beyond other methods of smoking cessation. Ex-smokers can choose a substitute ‘ smoking-like ‘ experience, preferable for some, or a move away from smoking towards a new vaping identity, attractive to others. Importantly, our sample of vapers demonstrate how smoking lapse may be perceived qualitatively differently than for other ex-smokers, as a ‘ permissive lapse ‘. Having the alternative of vaping means that full relapse to smoking is not perceived as inevitable following a lapse, as it may have been previously.

Conclusions: We demonstrate how the role of smoking lapse is theoretically redefined, drawing on novel data from ex-smokers in the context of vaping. Vaping offers a viable substitution option for smoking and an alternative to relapse.


Dr Lynne Dawkins, London South Bank University Professor Richard Holland, Leicester Medical School, UK. Sarah Jakes, New Nicotine Alliance Dr Emma Ward, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, UK.

Conflicts of interest:

No conflict of interest

Dr Caitlin Notley