Health & Studies

New ASH Survey Reveals Positives

New ASH survey finds no significant change between 2022 and 2023 in the proportion of 11-17 year olds currently vaping or smoking

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has published headline results for its 2023 vaping surveys [1] to inform responses to the government consultation on how to reduce youth vaping which closes on 6th June. [2] Surveys carried out by YouGov for ASH this Spring find that the proportion of children who have experimented with vaping has grown significantly since last year (up from 7.7% to 11.6%). In contrast there is no significant change since last year in the proportion of children currently smoking (4.8% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023) or currently vaping (6.9% in 2022 and 7.6% in 2023). [3]

The 2023 ASH surveys find:

  • No significant change between 2022 and 2023 in the proportion of 11-17 year olds currently vaping or smoking

  • However, trying vaping once or twice is up by 50% on last year

  • Disposable (single use) e-cigarettes are the vape of choice for children currently vaping

  • Corner shops are the main source of purchase and child awareness of instore promotion has grown significantly since last year.

Nearly three quarters (73%) say their first vape was given them, two thirds by a friend, but for children who currently vape, nearly three quarters (72%) say they usually buy their vapes, most commonly from a corner shop (26%).

Children are most aware of vape promotion in shops which is also where exposure has grown most rapidly, up from 37% last year to 53% in 2023. Other sources of promotion are also up but less so, including online (24% to 32%), and buses (9% to 11%) while the change in awareness of promotion on billboards is not significant (12% to 14%).

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH said: “We need to stem the tide of child vape experimentation and the Government’s investment in a crackdown on illegal underage sales of vapes is a vital first step. But enforcement on its own won’t do the trick without tougher regulation to address the child friendly promotion of these cheap and attractive products. The ASH youth survey demonstrates the rapid growth of instore promotion of vapes, using brightly coloured pack displays, reminiscent of cigarette displays from yesteryear. The evidence is clear, government needs to take strong action to prevent the marketing of vapes to children.”

The growth in vaping is due to the increasing popularity of cheap, easy to use and attractively branded single use, disposable vapes. [4] In 2021 current child vapers were least likely to vape disposables (7.7%), in 2022 they became the most used (52%) and use has continued to grow to 69% in 2023. Elf Bar remains the most popular brand, used by twice as many as the nearest competitor Lost Mary (25%) which is made by the same company as Elf Bar, followed by Elux, Geek Bar,and Crystal. 

Geoff Worsley, concerned parent from Abergele, North Wales, whose petition calling on government to “Stop Children Vaping - More Regulation Now” has over 100,000 signatures, [5] said: “Parents like me up and down the country are calling on government to act to protect our children from vaping as well as smoking. More funding for enforcement is a good first step but it’s not enough. Vaping is safer and better for smokers than smoking, but it shouldn’t be promoted to children. Regulations are needed to prevent vapes being openly sold in prominent positions within shops, in brightly coloured packaging and sweet names attractive to kids. We need tougher regulation to stop our children vaping and we need it now.”

Fears that vaping is leading a whole generation to be addicted to nicotine are not justified by the evidence to date” - ASH

However, fears that vaping is leading a whole generation to be addicted to nicotine are not justified by the evidence to date. Most of the 20.5% of young people who have ever vaped have only vaped once or twice or used to vape (12.9%), or use less than once a week (3.9%) with1.8% saying they vape between daily and weekly and 2.0% every day. The majority (63%) of those who have tried vaping once or twice have never smoked, while the majority (71%) of current vapers have tried smoking. This is consistent with evidence from other sources which find that it is more likely that there is a “common liability” in substance use for adolescents,[6} [7] rather than that vaping is proving to be a gateway into smoking.

‘Just to give it a try’ is still the most common reason given for using an e-cigarette (40%), followed by ‘other people use them so I join in’ (19%) then ‘I like the flavours’ (14%) with a small minority saying they think they’re addicted (3.2%). 

The role that vaping can play as the most effective aid in helping adult smokers to quit is acknowledged, which is why funding has been provided for 1 million smokers to receive free vape kits over the next two years to help them “swap to stop” [8] The potential for this is clear as although adult vaping continues to grow year on year mainly among ex-smokers to prevent relapse or current smokers trying to cutdown or quit, more than one in four (27%) of adult smokers have never tried vaping. Only 5.7% of adult never smokers have ever vaped, and only 1.1% of never smokers currently vape, while 11.5% of children 11-17 who have never smoked have ever vaped and 2.3% of never smokers currently vape.

The Government strategy is to deliver a smokefree 2030 by “cutting smoking and stopping kids vaping”. [8] However, this strategy could be undermined by the growing misperception that vaping is more than or equally risky as smoking among children (up from 41% in 2022 to 54% in 2023) and adult smokers (up from 32% in 2022 to 39% in 2023).

Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addictions, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said: “ASH surveys show that for the first time this year, the largest proportion of adults who smoke and the majority of all children, think that vaping is more than or equally harmful than smoking. These misperceptions are likely to encourage children to believe that they might as well smoke as vape, and discourage adults who smoke but have never vaped from taking up the government’s “swap to stop” offer. A well funded communications campaign is needed to address these growing misperceptions.”

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: “Vapes are a great aid to quitting smoking but efforts to market them to children are cynical and damaging to young people. We need tougher regulation on vapes, such as age warnings on packets, an end to toy-like advertising targeted at children, and a ban on the sale of single use vapes and free samples.”


[1] Results from the Smokefree GB surveys commissioned from YouGov by ASH.

Smokefree GB Youth survey 2023. Total sample size was 2656 children. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st March - 18th April 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children aged 11 to 18, but the majority of the results in this release have been filtered by 11-17, under the legal age of purchase of e-cigarettes.

Smokefree GB Adult survey 2023. Total sample size was 12271 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd February – 15th March 2023 .  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).Summary of trends available from [email protected]

[2]  DHSC Call for Evidence “to identify opportunities to reduce the number of children (people aged under 18) accessing and using vape products, while ensuring they are still easily available as a quit aid for adult smokers.”

[3] In both cases the 95% confidence intervals for the figures for 2022 and 2023 overlap meaning that the differences could be due to chance.

[4] Disposable e-cigarettes are non-rechargeable, non refillable vaping devices. E-cigarettes are also available as rechargeable products with replaceable pre-filled cartridges, and rechargeable products with a tank or reservoir which can be filled with e-liquid.

[5] petition by Geoffrey Worsley: Stop Children Vaping - More Regulation Now

[6] Shahab L, Brown J, Boelen L, Beard E, West R, Munafò MR. Unpacking the gateway hypothesis of e-cigarette use: The need for triangulation of individual-and population-level data. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2022 Aug;24(8):1315-8.

[7]  Khouja JN, Wootton RE, Taylor AE, Davey Smith G, Munafò MR. Association of genetic liability to smoking initiation with e-cigarette use in young adults: A cohort study. PLoS Medicine. 2021 Mar 18; 18(3):e1003555.

[8] O’Brien, N. UK Parliament. Achieving Smokefree 2030: cutting smoking and stopping kids vaping. Statement made on 17 April 2023. UIN HCWS710 

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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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