Health & Studies

82 Million Vapers

The latest Briefing Paper from the GSTHR project has been published and estimates there were 82 million vapers worldwide in 2021

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The latest research from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) estimates there are now 82 million vapers worldwide. Released on National No Smoking Day, the GSTHR project, from Knowledge•Action•Change (K•A•C), a UK public health agency, reports that the new total for 2021 represents a 20% increase on the figure for 2020 (68 million) and shows the popularity of vaping is growing rapidly around the world.

Each year, there are eight million smoking-related deaths worldwide, of whom 110,000 people are in the UK. Vaping offers a significantly safer alternative for the 1.1 billion people around the world who continue to smoke.

In 2015, Public Health England (since renamed the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) stated that nicotine vaping products were around 95% less harmful than smoking.

In 2021, Public Health England revealed that nicotine vaping products had become the main tool smokers use when they want to quit combustible cigarettes in England and the gold standard Cochrane Review found nicotine vapes were more successful than other methods, including nicotine replacement therapy.

K•A•C says that the growth in the number of vapers is a hugely positive step in efforts to reduce the harms of combustible cigarettes and hasten the end of smoking.

The updated calculation was made possible by the release of a range of new data including the 2021 Eurobarometer 506 survey and is revealed in a new GSTHR Briefing Paper. The figure is based on 49 countries that have produced viable survey results on vaping prevalence.

To address the problem of missing data, the GSTHR used an established method of estimating vaper numbers in countries that currently have no information by assuming a similarity with countries in the same region and economic condition for which data points were available.

This estimate takes into account three factors - sales regulation status, WHO regions and World Bank (WB) income groups - and the Euromonitor data on vaping product market size from 2015 to 2021 was also used.

Speaking about his findings, data scientist Tomasz Jerzyński of the GSTHR said: “As well as the substantial growth in the number of vapers globally, our research shows there has been rapid uptake of nicotine vaping products in some countries in Europe and in North America. This increase is particularly significant, because in most markets, these products have been available for only a decade.”

The rise in the number of global vapers comes despite the GSTHR’s database showing nicotine vaping products are banned in 36 countries including India, Japan, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey.

The new data also shows the US is the largest market for vaping at $10.3 billion, followed by Western Europe ($6.6 billion), Asia Pacific ($4.4 billion) and Eastern Europe ($1.6 billion).

Addressing the importance of this research, Professor Gerry Stimson, Director of K•A•C and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London, said: “As this updated data from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction shows, consumers find nicotine vaping products attractive and are switching to use them in increasing numbers worldwide. This is in spite of prohibitive policies in many countries who follow the World Health Organization’s anti-scientific stance against tobacco harm reduction, thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s billions and his personal zeal for a war on nicotine. 

“In order to reduce the devastating harms from smoking that lead to eight million deaths every year, governments must be pragmatic. As a tool to reduce harm, nicotine vaping products, as well as other safer nicotine products, should be accessible and affordable to people around the world who want to switch away from deadly combustible cigarettes.”

In the UK the proportion of the adult population using nicotine vaping products rose from 1.7% in 2012 to 7.1% in 2019.

Data from the UK suggest a substitution effect, whereby many people who consume nicotine are choosing to switch from combustible cigarettes to vaping.

But smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature death in England and, while rates are at record low levels, there are still around 6.1 million smokers.

Smoking causes a disproportionate burden on the most disadvantaged families and communities, and this has led to the government launching an independent review to tackle the country’s health disparities.

Former Barnardo’s CEO, Javed Khan, will lead the review into the government’s ambition to make England smoke free by 2030 and he is asking the public for their views on both how to support current smokers to quit, and how to stop people taking up smoking in the first place.


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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