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Reframing stop smoking services in response to e-cigarette use: An exploratory stakeholder study

1 April 2016 - 30 September 2017

PI/s in Exeter: Dr Hannah Farrimond

Research partners: Professor Charles Abraham (University of Exeter Medical School)

Funding awarded: £ 43,249

Sponsor(s): Cancer Research UK

About the research


The international Tobacco Control field remains mired in controversy over the exponential rise in e-cigarette use, with ongoing debates about their risk and how they should be regulated. This has created a considerable and immediate challenge for Stop Smoking Services (SSS) in the UK concerning if, and how, to reframe their services in the light of ecigarette use. Recent SSS guidance (McRobbie, 2015) has suggested taking a pragmatic approach. Some services have declared themselves ‘e-cigarette friendly’. However, little research has investigated what is meant by this or how services are approaching ecigarettes as a smoking cessation tool on the ground.


The aim of this project is to conduct exploratory stakeholder research with smoking cessation professionals and service users of SSS (smokers who want to quit smoking, including through e-cigarettes). It will investigate how cessation professionals (advisors, managers, commissioners) see the role of Stop Smoking Services in supporting quit attempts that involve e-cigarettes. It will investigate how current and potential users of cessation services (smokers, dual users, vapers, those not already engaging with services) understand e-cigarettes in relation to their smoking cessation and what they require from services. It will also provide outputs that stimulate debate and innovative thinking about the incorporation (or not) of e-cigarettes and vapers into Stop Smoking Services.


This research takes a stakeholder-driven approach, researching with two partner Stop Smoking Services in the South West of England, to undertake research with their service users and staff. The design is exploratory, using qualitative interviews (n=45) of staff, current SSS users and potential service users. The services chosen serve areas with above average smoking rates and pockets of high deprivation, with contrasting populations (inner city/rural). Stakeholders will be involved in the design and dissemination stages and NHS ethics review will be required.

How the results of this research will be used

The outcomes will be an informed understanding of the perceptions of SSS providers and service users, identification of needs (knowledge, resources) as well as a stakeholder-driven framework to work towards best practice in relation to smoking cessation and e-cigarettes. This research will be used to inform SSS provision nationally. This research will also speak to national and international policy debates about the role of e-cigarettes in reaching Tobacco Control goals.