In 2019 around half as many Britons now vape as smoke, and the majority are ex-smokers



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New data published today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows as vaping increases and smoking declines, there are now around half as many vapers as smokers. In 2019 there are an estimated 3.6 million people vaping in Great Britain [1] compared to 7.2 million smokers in the UK in 2018.[2]

The proportion of vapers who are ex-smokers continues to grow, reaching 54.1% in 2019 with the main reason given for using e-cigarettes being to help them quit (31%) followed by to prevent relapse back to smoking (20%). Only 0.8% of never smokers are current vapers and never smokers who’ve ever vaped say they mainly did so just to give it a try (73%).

A declining proportion, 39.8%, of vapers also smoke (dual use). The main reason given by current smokers for using e-cigarettes is to cut down (21%), followed by saving money compared to smoking (16%), then to help them stop smoking (14%).

Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, and lead author of the independent evidence reviews of e-cigarettes for Public Health England, said:

“The ASH Smokefree GB survey is the longest running survey of e-cig use, providing the most up to date evidence available on how vaping is evolving in Britain. More than half of current vapers are ex-smokers compared with only a third in 2014. However, it’s important that all vapers stop smoking completely, as otherwise they are still exposing themselves to the serious risks of disease and disability caused by smoking. Vaping isn’t risk free, but it’s much less risky than smoking, which kills nearly 100,000 people a year in the UK.”

A higher proportion of ex-smokers who have tried vaping no longer vape (13.3%) than currently vape (11.7%). This means there are 2.2 million ex-smokers who have tried vaping but no longer vape, compared to just under 2 million ex-smokers (1.95 million) who are current vapers.

E-cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid, [3] and have been shown to be to be nearly twice as successful in helping smokers quit as traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapy when used with behavioural support in smoking cessation clinics. [4] Survey evidence also suggests that when bought over the counter in shops and used outside a clinical setting they are making an important contribution to declining smoking prevalence by delivering tens of thousands of additional quitters annually.[5]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“Although e-cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid, our survey finds that in 2019 over a third of smokers have still never tried vaping. As Stoptober kicks off we’d encourage smokers who haven’t done so yet, to give vaping a try. E-cigarettes have been shown to be a very effective aid for smokers trying to quit, either on their own or with help from stop smoking services.”

However, ASH is concerned that rather than increasing numbers of smokers trying vaping, the recent news of an outbreak of serious vaping-related lung disease in the US may be driving vapers back to smoking. Vapers, or those considering vaping, should be reassured that e-cigarettes are regulated in the UK in line with a set of European-wide rules by our medicines regulator, the MHRA. The MHRA also monitors adverse reactions through its yellow card system, which to date has not identified serious respiratory problems similar to that found in the US.[6]

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said:

“The outbreak of vaping illness in the US is obviously concerning, but it appears to be linked to the misuse of e-cigarettes for illicit drug delivery. Nothing like this has been seen in the UK to date, where a proper regulatory system is in place for nicotine containing e-cigarettes, which is not yet the case in the US. Vapers should not be scared back to smoking by the news of vaping illness in the US. Nor should smokers stick to smoking rather than switch to vaping.  It is essential however, to only use legal vapes bought from reputable suppliers in the UK and not source illicit unregulated products over the internet.”

For all the findings from this year’s survey and trends from 2012 onwards see ASH fact sheet here.

ENDS

Notes to the editor:

About Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Media Contact

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information send an email to press@ash.org.uk or ring 020 7404 0242.

Out of hours contact Deborah Arnott (Chief Executive, ASH) on 07976 935 987 or Ciaran Osborne (Director of Policy, ASH) on 07921 502181.

References

[1] Total sample size was 12,393 adults in Great Britain. Fieldwork was undertaken online between 12th February 2019 and 10th March 2019. The survey was carried out online by YouGov. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+) Calculations of the numbers of vapers are by ASH and Dr Leonie Brose at King’s College London. In each of the years we applied the proportions of e-cigarette use by smoking status in the YouGov survey to the most recent available ONS mid-year GB population estimates at the time the YouGov data was gathered. In 2019, ONS mid-year GB population estimates for 2017 have been used. The full findings are available here.

[2] Office for National Statistics, Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2018

[3] Jackson, S. E., Kotz, D., West, R., and Brown, J. ( 2019) Moderators of real‐world effectiveness of smoking cessation aids: a population study. Addiction, 114: 1627– 1638.

[4] Hajek P et al A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy. N Engl J Med 2019; 380:629-637 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1808779

[5] McNeill A, Brose LS, Calder R, Bauld L & Robson D (2018). Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England.

[6] For information about regulation in the UK see page 12 of the ASH factsheet.