Electronic cigarette use among smokers slows as perceptions of harm increase

Friday 22 May 2015

Today Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) publishes new data showing that use of electronic cigarettes has grown over the last year. It is estimated that there are now 2.6 million vapers [1] in Britain. This has grown from an estimated 2.1 million in 2014 but nearly all of this increase is attributable to an increase in the number of ex-smokers using electronic cigarettes.

Data from the Smokefree Britain Survey [2] conducted by YouGov and analysed by researchers at King’s College London shows that electronic cigarette use between 2014 and 2015 has:
• Increased among ex-smokers (from 4.5% in 2014 to 6.7% in 2015)
• Remained the same among current smokers (17.6% of smokers in 2014 and 2015).
• Remained extremely rare among never-smokers (0.2% over the last three years)

The most popular reason current vapers gave for using electronic cigarettes was to help them stop smoking completely (48%) and to prevent them from relapsing to smoking (38%).

Over the same period there has been a growing false [3] belief that electronic cigarettes could be as harmful as smoking:
• Among the general population who have heard of electronic cigarettes, between 2014 and 2015 there was a significant increase in the perception that electronic cigarettes are as harmful or more harmful than smoking (from 15% in 2014 to 22% in 2015).
• Among smokers who have never tried electronic cigarettes but are aware of them, this perception of harm has nearly doubled from 12% in 2014 to 22% in 2015.

Different types of products have also changed in popularity over the last year. In 2014 the most popular products were ‘cig-a-like’, which resemble traditional cigarettes but in 2015 refillable ‘tank’ devices, which come in a range of shapes and sizes, have increased in popularity:
• In 2014 41% of current vapers used ‘tank’ models while 55% used ‘cig-a-like’ devices
• In 2015 ‘tank’ models were the most popular product among current vapers with 66% using them while only 32% use ‘cig-a-like’ devices.

Recent research conducted by academics at King’s [4] has indicated that using ‘tank’ devices was associated with having quit smoking successfully.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“The number of ex-smokers who are staying off tobacco by using electronic cigarettes is growing, showing just what value they can have. But the number of people who wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking is worrying. The growth of this false perception risks discouraging many smokers from using electronic cigarettes to quit and keep them smoking instead which would be bad for their health and the health of those around them.”

Dr Leonie Brose, Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London said:

“We must clearly communicate the relative safety of electronic cigarettes to smokers. The proven harm of tobacco is currently getting less coverage than the much smaller and far less certain harm from electronic cigarettes. We owe it to smokers to provide them with accurate information.”



For further media information please contact

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m) deborah.arnott@ash.org.uk

Jack Stonebridge, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London jack.stonebridge@kcl.ac.uk/ (+44) 020 7848 5377.

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

For further information on the YouGov survey data see the ASH fact sheet on Use of electronic cigarettes in Great Britain at: http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf

[1] Methodology: Calculations are by ASH and King’s College London. We applied the proportions of e-cigarette use by smoking status in the 2015 YouGov survey to the most recent available ONS mid-year GB population estimates (2012).

[2] YouGov Survey. 2015 survey: Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th February and 12th March 2015. Total sample size was 12,055. 2014 survey: Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th and 14th March 2014. Total sample size was 12,269. All surveys were carried out online. 2013 survey: Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st and 19th February 2013. Total sample size was 12,171 adults. All surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB Adults (aged 18+).

[3] Electronic Cigarettes: A report commissioned by Public Health England, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/311887/Ecigarettes_report.pdf

[4] Hitchman SC, Brose LS, Brown J, Robson D & McNeill A (2015). Associations between e-cigarette type, frequency of use, and quitting smoking: Findings from a longitudinal online panel survey in Great Britain. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv078