Number of GB Vapers Declines

Posted 27th October 2020 by Dave Cross
Unfounded concerns about safety of e-cigarettes are likely to be behind the reported drop in the number of vapers in Great Britain according to recent study from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH UK). The report highlights how, shockingly, “just 39% of smokers in Great Britain correctly believe vaping is less harmful than smoking in 2020”.

ASH UK’s research shows that the number of British vapers is down from 3.6 million to 3.2 million. Other findings include:


  • For the first time, current e-cigarette use has declined year-on-year, from 7.1% to 6.3% of the adult population in Great Britain, amounting to 3.2 million people. 
  • 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.
  • The proportion of adult smokers who had never tried e-cigarettes fell rapidly from 2010 until 2014, and continued falling, but gradually, from 2015 onwards.3 In 2020 it was 32.4%.
  • Only 0.3% of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9% of vapers), down from 0.8% in 2019.


  • 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. This does not include the 1% of smokers who think vaping is harmless.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH UK, said: “About a third of smokers have never even tried an e-cigarette and less than 20% are currently using one. If many more smokers could be encouraged to give e-cigarettes a go the latest evidence indicates that many more might successfully quit.

Health professionals can give smokers the confidence to try an e-cigarette by letting them know that they can help them manage cravings and that they are a much safer alternative than continuing to smoke.

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Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of the North East tobacco office, Fresh, commented: “Tobacco smoking kills one in two long term smokers, and North East hospitals see tens of thousands of hospital admissions every year from smoking. But vaping is not smoking, and we do need to end the confusion around this. Most people who vape are doing so with the aim of switching from tobacco. E-cigarettes are now the country’s most popular quitting aid, and we need to support anyone using them to stay tobacco-free.”

Gareth Johnson MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping, voiced his concerns: “Vaping is significantly safer than smoking and false information to the contrary is literally costing lives. If smokers switch to vaping, there is clear scientific evidence that it is better for their health, so we need more encouragement of smokers to make this change.”

Scott Mann MP, treasurer of the APPG, added: “For many years now the harm-reduction impact of vaping in the UK has been a key asset in efforts to improve public health. To see the number vapers fall for the first time, when millions of people continue to smoke across the country, is a cause for concern. The public must be empowered to understand and access less harmful alternatives, not be pushed away.”

Speaking on behalf of The UK Vaping Trading Association (UKVIA), John Dunne said: “Misinformation continues to be a huge challenge for the industry despite its efforts to make consumers aware of the evidence-based facts, including the Public Health England (PHE) statement that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

Inaccurate and misleading reporting, together with highly questionable research, gives a negative view of vaping to smokers who may otherwise quit. Even worse, it could make current vapers reconsider whether they’ve made the right move by taking up e-cigarettes.

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“Earlier this year, PHE concluded that perceptions of harm from vaping among smokers are increasingly out of line with the evidence, with the misperceptions particularly common among smokers who do not vape.

“There are still 3.2m vapers out there who have made the successful switch but there are also 6.9m smokers. These smokers can still turn to vaping to quit cigarettes and benefit from harm reduction.”


  • Action on Smoking and Health Report – [link]
  • The UK Vaping Trading Association – [link]
  • All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping – [link]

Map image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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