Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH UK, told POTV: "UK policy is on the right track, with thousands of smokers making the switch to vaping and improving their health and little sign of non-smokers taking up vaping. But even more smokers could benefit if e-cigarettes were licensed as medicines and available on prescription."
Things aren’t all rosy, according to ASH UK: “A worrying belief that vaping is as bad as smoking still exists, particularly among smokers who haven’t yet tried e-cigarettes. Earlier this year, Public Health England said e-cigarettes should be made available on prescription because of how successful they were in helping people give up smoking.”
“The trend seems to support data from the Smoking Toolkit Study which illustrates that e-cigarettes are supporting quit attempts” – ASH UK Study
Dr Leonie Brose, King’s College London, said: “The continued false belief among some smokers that vaping is as bad as smoking is worrying. Campaigns from Public Health England and others to challenge these views are important and must continue.”
The study found:
- An estimated 3.2 million adults in Great Britain currently use e-cigarettes (vape), up from 700,000 in 2012, the first year ASH collected figures for e-cigarette use
- There are now more ex-smokers (1.7 million) who use e-cigarettes than current smokers (1.4 million). This means that over half (52%) of e-cigarette users are ex-smokers with 44% being current tobacco smokers.
- The main reason given by current vapers for use of e-cigarettes is to help them stop smoking
- Public perceptions of harm from e-cigarettes remain inaccurate with only 17% of respondents correctly stating that e-cigarettes are a lot less harmful than smoking
- Only 2% of current vapers report using an e-liquid containing over 20 mg/ml (the limit in the Tobacco Products Directive)
- Liquids containing nicotine are being used by the majority of vapers but users are much more likely to report that they have decreased rather than increased their strength over time.
“The current nicotine cap is not a problem for the vast majority of current vapers but it remains unclear if it is having an impact on the behaviour of smokers not using e-cigarettes” – ASH UK Study
The study highlights other additional important areas in that ex-smokers are using vaping to help them prevent a return to smoking and that there has been a negligible growth in the numbers on non-smokers taking up vaping since 2012. Moreover: “they currently appear to be a small group in the population and are more likely to be using a low volume of liquid without the addictive component.”
The cap on nicotine content in eliquids is implicated in preventing current smokers from successfully making the switch: “Products are still not meeting the needs of many smokers. Levels of satisfaction with e-cigarettes compared to smoking are low among people who continue to smoke with only 10% of smokers who no longer use e-cigarettes reporting that they are more or equally satisfying compared to smoking.”
The Independent British Vape Trade Association welcomed the study: “Fantastic news for vaping! The number of vapers in Great Britain has topped three million for the first time - four times the number in 2012.”
The Irish Vape Vendors Association wondered aloud if a similar acceptance in its country could achieve the same results: “Imagine if the Irish public health community and government got behind the evidence that vaping is a positive tool and reached a position of support?”
Oliver Kershaw, founder of the Ecigarette Forum said: “Awesome news: far from "flatlining" in the UK, as has been claimed by a number of sources, vaping continues to rise here with commensurate decline in smoking. Perhaps vaping is crossing the chasm? Will the next generation of products fulfil the mission?”
Dr Attila Danko added: “I'm struck by the good news that accurate perceptions of the relative safety of vaping are finally improving.”