Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the statistical bulletin Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain, 2013. The results are interesting in several aspects, but the focus for us is their data regarding ecigarette use. ONS stated in the release that they chose to publish preliminary findings on vaping habits “in response to the emerging need for more information.” While the report is based on smoking habits for 2013 the ecig data was collected between January and March 2014 so it is a positive indicator that they have chosen to release this data early.
The data shows that 12% of all current smokers, just under 5% of all ex-smokers and 0.14% of never-smokers use ecigarettes.
We do from time-to-time see people who have adopted vaping having never smoked at all. Their reasons have varied but this individual saw great results from starting to vape and had no intention of moving on to tobacco use. For myself, a smoker of 27 years who started at the age of 13, I cannot see why anyone would move from vaping to smoking. I used to love smoking but since I started vaping I cannot smoke anymore, the smell is horrible and it tastes foul. Yet even through my failed quit attempts with patches or cold turkey those first cigarettes still tasted great.
For me, the argument of ecigarettes becoming a gateway to tobacco use holds little weight -my own personal experiences of smoking since becoming a vaper, the release of statistics such as these from the ONS and several other studies that have come to the same conclusion. The Smoking Toolkit study, the ASH UK survey and the New Scientist (which covers a study from data collected in 2012) all point to a tiny take-up of never-smokers who have moved from ecig use to become a smoker. The New Scientist quotes Konstantinos Farsalinos as saying, "This study verifies that e-cigarette use does not renormalise smoking. The results show minimal adoption by non-smokers."
The other interesting thing about this week’s release by the ONS is that the proportion of smokers continues to fall. For the first time since these records began the proportion of people aged 16 and over who smoke cigarettes has fallen below 20% - in 2013 only 19% of the survey sample were current smokers. This is a massive fall from the 46% recorded in 1974.
There is no doubt that smoking is a dying habit and there is still no clear evidence that ecigarettes will be gateway to smoking adoption. It is pleasing to hear that in the UK we are using data and facts to base our political decisions on and not the presumptions and anecdotes that the WHO have put forward as evidence to back the need for legislation. The ONS states “These data were collected between January and March 2014. Complete 2014 findings are planned for publication as part of the next Adult Smoking Habits in GB publication in 2015”. So we look forward to updating you with the full findings for the year when the data is released.