Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, explained the significance of the findings: “This year’s ASH survey finds that around 1.5 million vapers are ex-smokers, for the first time a larger number than those who continue to smoke. This is encouraging news as we know that vapers who continue to smoke continue to be exposed to cancer-causing substances. The message for the 1.3 million vapers who still smoke is that they need to go further and switch completely.”
ASH UK was established in 1971 by the Royal College of Physicians. It is a campaigning public health charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco, headed by the Chief Executive, Deborah Arnott.
Heralding the ground-breaking research figure, Arnott said: “It’s excellent news that the number of vapers who have quit smoking is continuing to grow, but there are still 9 million smokers compared to only 1.5 million vapers who don’t smoke at all. The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end while over a third of smokers have still never tried e-cigarettes, saying the main reasons are concerns about the safety and addictiveness of e-cigarettes. It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking.”
This year’s Smokefree GB study was carried out on behalf of ASH UK by YouGov. It shows that an estimated 2.9 million adults in Great Britain currently use electronic cigarettes - a fourfold increase since 2012 - and record levels have escaped the grasp of tobacco smoking.
Worryingly, only 13% of respondents recognise that e-cigarettes are a lot less harmful than smoking, with 26% thinking they are more or equally harmful. The Royal College of Physicians report and Public Health England report both state that vaping is “at least 95% safer than smoking”. The highly respected Cochrane Review concluded that vaping “increased the chances of stopping smoking in the long term.”
Smokers believing that vaping offers more harm than it actually does is cited by ASH as the main reason they do not transition to electronic cigarettes. The organisation thinks that this is a communications challenge that needs immediate attention in order to reduce the harm caused by tobacco.
The data obtained by ASH has been used to update the organisation’s Ecig factsheet: Use of e-cigarettes among adults in Great Britain 2017.