Health & Studies

GB Success

A new paper published in the BMJ’s Thorax journal shows that smoking quitting rates were much higher after e-cigarette use rose in Great Britain

Share on:
The study, led by Dr Emma Beard, a Senior Research Fellow at University College London (UCL), looks at smoking, ever smoking and quit ratio trends since the 1970s. The team discovered that smoking rates in Britain are declining as fast as ever. More smokers are quitting and fewer young people are taking up smoking. The paper was published in the BMJ’s Thorax journal.

The team (Robert West, Martin Jarvis, Susan Michie, and Jamie Brown) explain that declines in smoking prevalence are believed to slow over time naturally. This is because it is felt the smoking population “hardens”, therefore “progress has come primarily from reducing uptake rather than increasing cessation.”

“Hardening’ is the idea that decreases in prevalence result in a greater proportion of remaining smokers having lower motivation to quit and/or greater dependence. This ‘hardening hypothesis’ is relevant to the debate about how far innovation in tobacco control is required to move to the ‘endgame’, where only a tiny minority of people smoke.”

The paper constitutes the first one to look at the hardening hypothesis across the whole population, something the team believes is important “for informing future tobacco control policies internationally.”

They note: “A further contentious issue that has arisen more recently is whether the increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use in countries such as the UK and the US may be renormalising smoking and preventing declines in smoking prevalence that might otherwise have occurred. Conversely, e-cigarette use may be accelerating the decline in smoking prevalence because of smokers switching to these products. If e-cigarettes are promoting smoking cessation, this is important in terms of national and international policies regarding regulation of e-cigarettes.”


They modelled trends in “cigarette smoking, ever-smoking in young people and quit ratios using annual data collected between 1973 and 2016 from the General Household Survey (GHS)/General Lifestyle Survey (GLF), the Annual Population Survey (APS) and the Integrated Household Survey (IHS). These surveys cover the population of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).

The results led the team to conclude: “The persistence of a near linear decline in smoking prevalence does not support concerns that increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use—as has been observed in Great Britain since 2011—would renormalise smoking and prevent declines that might otherwise have occurred.”

“In fact, the trend observed is consistent with a time series analysis conducted in 2016 over a time period of 10 years, which suggested that e-cigarettes have contributed to the decline in smoking prevalence by helping some smokers to quit successfully. That study showed an increase in the success rate of quit attempts associated with the increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use, after adjusting for a wide range of potentially confounding factors including policy initiatives.”

The findings amount to a sixfold increase in quit rates as vaping gained in popularity in Great Britain. No doubt the Daily Telegraph and Mail Online will cover this story later on today.


  • Beard EV, West R, Jarvis M, et al S’-shaped curve: modelling trends in smoking prevalence, uptake and cessation in Great Britain from 1973 to 2016 Thorax Published Online First: 07 August 2019 – [link]
  • Dr Beard’s blog – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
View Articles

Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

Join the discussion

Vaping News

Harm Reduction For The Rich

The United Kingdom risks becoming a harm reduction country only for the wealthy, according to Michael Landl of the World Vapers’ Alliance

Vaping News

CAPHRA Highlights Tobacco Control Flaws

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates highlights the flaws in tobacco control which has led to the rise of black market in Australia

Vaping News

A Missed Opportunity at COP10

The Smoke Free Sweden movement says that COP10 was a missed opportunity to save millions of lives

Vaping News

COP10: Promote Tobacco Harm Reduction

Experts with Smoke Free Sweden are emphasising the urgent need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction approach at COP10