Health & Studies

ASH Provides Teen Vaping Update

Action on Smoking and Health has released its annual update detailing the current state of play when it comes to young people and electronic cigarettes in Great Britain

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) produces yearly reports on a number of subjects. One, the “Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain”, has consistently demonstrated that there is no gateway effect and no teen epidemic whatsoever. The update for 2021 shows no change.

Just one month ago, ASH were confirming that there is a problem with adult smoker engagement with e-cigs. Despite reaffirming that there is no credible issue with teens vaping, they pushed for further restrictions to be made to vape products.

ASH’s Hazel Cheeseman commented: “Currently youth vaping in this country is not a significant problem, but nor do we want one. E-cigarettes have been a powerful tool to help smokers stop and we want to see many more make the switch. However, we also need to do all we can to avoid uptake in young non-smokers. The time is right for the government to explore how packaging can be made less appealing to children whilst also understanding how we can best expand the appeal of products among adult smokers.”

Are things like attractive packaging a driver for non-smoking teens taking up vaping? No, not according to ASH’s own research.

The 2021 findings state: “Young people aged 11-18 years old vape mainly just to give it a try (49.3%) not because they think it looks cool (1.2%). They are unlikely to choose e-cigarettes because they are easier to access (1.1%) or cheaper (0.8%) than tobacco cigarettes.”

This year’s survey might have found that 40% of 11-18yr olds might prefer attractive packaging over plain packaging, but this still doesn’t mean it is a driver to initiating vaping.

ASH is also concerned about a relaxation on the kind of permissible advertising messages despite, “a large majority of 11-17 year olds have never tried (77.7%) or are unaware of e-cigarettes (10.5%).”

The charity has been compiling their results since 2013. It links the growth in vaping to the decline in smoking, from 2010 onwards when e-cigarette use became widespread among adult smokers and ex-smokers.

The survey also found:

  • In 2021 11.2% of 11-17 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 13.9% in 2020. This is largely unchanged from 2015 when 11.6% of 11-17 year olds had tried e-cigarettes
  • Children under 16 are least likely to try e-cigarettes. Only 6.5% of 11-15 year olds have tried vaping, compared to 23.2% of 16-17 year olds. Just under a third of 18 year olds report trying an e-cigarette (30.1%)
  • The main source for both cigarettes and e-cigarettes is shops. 60% of 11-17 year olds get their cigarettes from shops, compared to 41.9% for e-cigarettes
  • The perception among 11-18 year olds that cigarettes and e-cigarettes are equally harmful has been increasing since 2013. Only 43.8% of 11-18 year olds in 2021 believed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes

Nine years of research and still not a spec of evidence to support claims that vaping is acting as a gateway into smoking or that there is an epidemic of teen vaping – what is Britain doing so right that America is doing so wrong?


  1. Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain, 2021 –
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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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.

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