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Who Might Influence You To Quit Smoking For Vaping?

The recent government initiative to get a million smokers to ditch rolled-up tobacco from cigarette packets in favour of the healthier option of a liquid vape, but this kind of policy can have mixed benefits.

On the one hand, it shows that, despite all the negative things that have been said and written about vaping from various sections of the media and some politicians in recent months and years, there is now a loud and clear message from those at the top of government and the NHS that vaping is a healthier option and a good way to stop smoking. This lends the whole idea great credibility.

However, those who may be generally suspicious or simply disdainful of government and authority, or who perhaps have a particularly partisan view of all matters political and might take a dim view of the party currently in power, might not appreciate a Conservative government intervening in this manner, even if the scheme will be run in conjunction with councils of various political complexions.

Those who don’t look to institutions or authority for a steer on how to make decisions may include a lot of mavericks who will happily make up their own minds of everything, but most will simply look for other sources of opinion and influence.

As we saw during the dark days of the pandemic, this kind of alternative source of ‘wisdom’ could have some bad consequences for public health, so it is obvious that if some people pay more heed to what someone on Instagram of TikTok has to say than their GP or a government minister, the results will be unpredictable to say the least.

For that reason, we can only advise that folk do a lot more than just listen to the words of an influencer who may have no medical knowledge or understanding when it comes to vaping (or indeed other matters). 

As it happens, when it comes to online influencers, the key concern has been the effect they might have in prompting children to break the law with underage vaping. 

Following the recent government announcement of its new vaping policy – which marries encouraging adult smokers to switch to e-cigarettes with renewed efforts to curb underage use of vapes – the Daily Mirror reported that the latter element of the policy could include banning influencers from promoting vaping online.

If something like that does happen, it would be widely welcomed. But the rationale of the government’s policy is that while it is best for youngsters not to take up either smoking or vaping, especially below the legal age of 18, it is beneficial as a harm-reduction measure to get existing smokers to vape. Presumably, that sort of influencer encouragement would be very welcome.

Part of the issue is the confusion that exists due to the anti-vape message that has been spread far and wide. This has been true not just in the UK, but across the world. In the US, a study by the University of Pittsburgh found that the attitudes of many American consumers were impacted by what they saw in TV medical dramas.

In this case, three shows – New Amsterdam, Chicago Med and Grey’s Anatomy – had an impact. As noted by the study, published in the Journal of Health Communications, hundreds responded on Twitter to episodes of the shows in January 2020 featuring an anti-vape line (such as lung damage associated with vaping) by saying they would give up e-cigarettes.  

The study found that 4.4 per cent of those tweeting about the shows declared plans to quit in response to what they had seen. Again, however, the focus of the research was in uncovering ways of communicating to adolescents too young to legally vape anyway. 

Lead researcher Beth Hoffman said: “Given the rapid increase in e-cigarette use among US adolescents, it is vital for public health professionals to develop ways in which to effectively communicate the harms of vaping to young people,” adding that it seemed primetime TV offered an effective means of doing this.

The problem with such analysis, like that of Tik-Tok and Instagram influencers, is that the focus is so firmly on the issue of underage vaping and the influences teenagers will listen to, not potential influences on adults.

Such considerations may also apply to those who are not setting out to be influencers, but whose high public profile means how they live their lives is always of interest to some. 

An example of this might be Simon Cowell. Famous as the frequently harsh judge of shows like Britain’s Got Talent and X-Factor with the impossibly immaculate white-toothed smile, the record executive told the Sun that having once smoked his way through 80 cigarettes a day, he was now a vaper, having been prompted to quit after a nasty dose of laryngitis last year.

“I am now vaping, so I am not quite out of the woods, but I have not had a cigarette in about three or four weeks,” he declared, adding: “I thought, ‘If I have done four days without a cigarette, I can do a week,’ and then I thought, ‘This is the moment, touch wood.’”

At the age of 63, Cowell is hardly the sort of spring chicken teenagers will look up to, even if they are used to seeing him on their TV screens.  But his story may be a relevant example to adults of how they can use vaping to give up smoking. It is not that everyone wants to be Simon Cowell, but as a successful man he can be an exemplar of what another man can achieve – and this as an ex-smoker.

Celebrities have been deployed in advertising, endorsements and advocacy for a long time, well before people like influencers emerged as a class of folk who were famous for being famous. But should you really be swayed just by what a Tik-Toker, Simon Cowell or even a TV drama show says? 

We would say definitely not; listen to the experts who say switching to vaping will be much better for your health.  That is ultimately what matters.