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Vaping Powers Drop In Tobacco Use

The Office of National Statistics reports another ecig-inspired drop in smoking and no gateway from vaping.

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The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released its latest report detailing smoking and smoking cessation in the UK. The data demonstrates that the United Kingdom is still one of the leading countries in the world for combatting tobacco-related harm. Vaping has played a key role and there is no evidence of a gateway effect.

The report's main points are:

  • In the UK, 15.1% of people aged 18 years and above smoked cigarettes, which equates to around 7.4 million people in the population, based on our estimate from the Annual Population Survey.
  • Of the constituent countries, 14.9% of adults in England smoked; for Wales, this figure was 16.1%; Scotland, 16.3% and Northern Ireland, 16.5%.
  • In the UK, 17.0% of men smoked compared with 13.3% of women.
Those aged 25 to 34 years had the highest proportion of current smokers (19.7%).
  • In the UK, around 1 in 4 (25.9%) people in routine and manual occupations smoked, compared with just 1 in 10 people (10.2%) in managerial and professional occupations.
  • In Great Britain, 60.8% of people aged 16 years and above who currently smoked said they wanted to quit and 59.5% of those who have ever smoked said they had quit, based on our estimates from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.
  • In Great Britain, 5.5% of people in 2017 said they currently used an e-cigarette, which equates to approximately 2.8 million adults in the population.

The report states: “In 2017, the proportion of current smokers in the UK was 15.1%, which equates to around 7.4 million in the population. The latest figure represents a significant reduction in the proportion of current smokers since 2016, when 15.8% smoked.”

It highlights “England continued to have the lowest proportion of current smokers (14.9%, around 6.1 million people), for the fifth consecutive year,” which contrasts with Northern Ireland that has “the highest proportion of current smokers (16.5%, around 226,000 people).”

“The largest fall in smoking prevalence has been among 18- to 24- year-olds,” which has dropped a full eight percent since 2011.

“The most common reason for vaping was as an aid to quit smoking (48.8%)” - ONS

Vaping has played no small part in this amazing development and the report notes, “e-Cigarettes are increasingly being used by smokers to help quit smoking.”

It points to the fact that, “Public Health England found that vaping poses a small fraction of the risk of smoking and that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful quits of smoking per year.”

Vaping has boomed from when figures were recorded in 2011. Back then just 3.7% of the population vaped, it has hit 5.5% - which equals 2.8 million people. Although this figure has been static for a while it masks what is actually happening.

“The most common reason given for vaping was as an aid to stop smoking, with almost half (48.8%) of vapers reporting using e-cigarettes for that purpose in 2017. The perception that they are less harmful than cigarettes was the second most common reason for vaping at 29.2%,” the report continues.

Vaping works as a harm reduction tool, and the report demonstrates that it has worked as a nicotine quit tool too: “2017 figures show that over 900,000 people have quit both smoking and vaping in Great Britain. In England, more than 770,000 had quit both smoking and vaping.”

So, although the headline figure for vapers is static, there is a constant movement of smokers to vapers, and vapers to abstainers.

“Only 0.4% of people who have never smoked reported that they currently vape” - ONS

Commenting on the release of new figures from the Office of National Statistics, ASH Scotland Chief Executive Sheila Duffy said: “I’m encouraged to see a further fall in the smoking rate in Scotland. These new statistics show that taking bold action such as implementing plain packs, reducing the visibility of tobacco through display bans, and increasing the price by taxation, is succeeding in tackling the single biggest cause of avoidable death in Scotland.”

“The aim in Scotland is to put smoking out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion for the next generation. In some communities in Scotland it is easier to start smoking and harder to quit so over the next few years ASH Scotland is working to understand better why this is and how the majority of smokers, who want to quit, can succeed.”

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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