The first key figure from the ONS report is that 19% of British adults smoke. They cloud this figure by pointing out how it is down from 46% in 1974 – but this fails to recall that the previous survey revealed an identical figure twelve months previously. It is a surprising finding given that 2014 saw a huge boom in the numbers of people vaping.
Despite seeing a fall in the numbers of men smoking, the overall number of smokers remained static due to the growth in the numbers of women aged 25-34 who smoked – and smoking is far more prevalent in lower income groups with those on benefits outstripping the rates for those earning over £40,000 or more.
The data also reveals that although fewer men smoke, the number of cigarettes they consume is higher and averages 14.6 a day in the over-60s. Tackling such results is difficult according to Dr Penny Woods: “Smoking cessation services - the most effective way of helping people quit - are under threat around the country due to budget cuts. If we want to continue helping people quit and look after their lung health, investment in these vital services must be protected.” The chief executive of the British Lung Foundation continued: “It is certainly worrying that more young women are taking up smoking. The introduction of drab standardised packaging from May this year should help tackle this, but more efforts are still needed.”
The ONS state that 4% of Great Britain vapes, totally an estimated 2.2 million people. This figure is dwarfed by the 3.9 million who say they were regular users of electronic cigarettes and returned to smoking and exceeded by the 2.6 million who tried vaping and rejected it.
15% of smokers tried adopting ecigs because they believed they could use them indoors but, as we know, opportunities for that have been removed and continue to be attacked. That only 9% made the switch for cost savings is surprising given the current price of cigarettes. 22% did so as they believed vaping was a safer option – but just 15% of current smokers believe that ecigs are safer than cigarettes. 67% of vapers use their equipment daily and most of us prefer things that do not resemble cigarettes.
Deborah Arnott, representing Action on Smoking and Health, said: "The results on electronic cigarettes show that the majority of users are smokers who are using them to quit smoking. This is encouraging as e-cigarettes are far safer than tobacco products and using them as a quitting aid will significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer caused by smoking."