Use of E-Cigarettes (Vapes) Among Adults in Great Britain

Summary of Study

Bottom line: In a survey of e-cigarette users in Great Britain, most respondents reported vaping to quit or cut back on smoking. There's a clear association between e-cigarette use and plummeting smoking rates in Great Britain. Yet the proportion of vapers correctly believing that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking has fallen. Nearly one in five respondents said they'd revert to smoking if e-cigarette flavors were banned.

Current e-cigarette use has declined year-on-year, from 7.1% to 6.3% of the adult population in Great Britain. Over half (58.9%) of current vapers are ex-smokers and the proportion has grown year-on-year, while the proportion of vapers who also smoke (known as dual users) has fallen to 38.3% in 2020. Only 0.3% of never-smokers are current vapers, down from 0.8% in 2019.

Among all e-cigarette users, the three main reasons for vaping are as an aid to quitting (30%) followed by preventing relapse (20%) and to cut down the number of cigarettes smoked (11%). As in previous years, the main reason given by ex-smokers for vaping is to help them quit (41%) and prevent relapse (20%). The main reason given by current smokers for vaping is to cut down (24%) followed by to help them quit (14%) and to prevent relapse (14%).

The proportion of smokers correctly believing vaping is less harmful than smoking has fallen from 48% last year, to 39% this year. Since 2013 there has been a significant increase in the misperception of the relative risks of vaping compared to smoking among the adult population.

Over time, the proportion of current e-cigarette users who smoke tobacco has fallen, while the proportion who are ex-smokers has risen. In 2020, 61.7% of current vapers were ex-smokers, while 38.3% also smoked (dual users).

The Annual Population Survey found that smoking prevalence among adults aged 18 and over in England declined by 5.9 percentage points from 2011 to 2019. In 2011, 19.8% of adults smoked, falling to 13.9% in 2019; equivalent to a drop from 7.7 million smokers in 2011 to 5.7 million in 2019.

There's a clear association between changes in population rates of quitting smoking and prevalence of e-cigarette use after adjusting statistically for a range of potential confounding factors. If the association is causal, e-cigarettes were responsible for an estimated 69,930 additional ex-smokers in England in 2017. Recent evidence from a randomized controlled trial showed that vaping was nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.

If e-cigarette flavors were banned, one in four respondents said they would still try to get flavors, nearly one in ten said they would make their own e-liquid, and nearly one in five said that they would either smoke more or revert to smoking.

Read the full study HERE

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Action on Smoking and Health

Findings:

  • Among all e-cigarette users, the three main reasons for vaping are as an aid to quitting (30%) followed by preventing relapse (20%) and to cut down the number of cigarettes smoked (11%). 
  • The main reason given by ex-smokers for vaping is to help them quit (41%) and prevent relapse (20%). 
  • The main reason given by current smokers for vaping is to cut down (24%) followed by to help them quit (14%) and to prevent relapse (14%). 

Read the full study HERE