The new NHS report highlights how an enlightened approach to vaping and tobacco harm reduction has benefits for society by improving health and reducing costs.
There are around 1.8 million fewer adult smokers in England in 2018 compared with seven years ago, dropping from 7.7 million (19.8%) in 2013 to 5.9 million (14.4%) in 2018. The prevalence of adult smokers throughout the UK was 14.7%. Of the constituent countries, England had the lowest (14.4%). Prevalence was highest in Scotland (16.3%), followed by Wales (15.9%) and then Northern Ireland (15.5%).
The report also includes looks at prevalence of smoking by age, prescriptions data, E-cigarette popularity, hospital admissions and mortality attributable to smoking, and selected local level analyses.
In 2018, adults aged 25 to 34 were most likely to smoke (19%), whilst those aged 65 and over were least likely to smoke (8%). The smoking rate drop continues when looking at school pupils aged between 11 and 15 - 6% reported they were current smokers in 2016, down from 22% in 1996.
Pregnant women remain a concern, with just under 11% known to be smokers at the time of delivery in 2018-19. This is similar than the level recorded in 2017-18, but down from 15% in 2008/09.
Usage continues to rise, with 6.3% of adults being current vapers in 2018. This is compared to 5.5% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2014. Adults aged 35 to 49 were most likely to vape (8.1%), while adults aged 60 and over were least likely (4.1%). The most common reason for adults using e-cigarettes was as an aid to quit smoking (51.5%) - The next most common reason was “Other” (21.5%) which included "because I enjoy it" and "because it's something I do with my friends”.
When it comes to perceived harm, 30% of current smokers still see vaping as offering a similar harm to smoking. Views of harm are influenced by having ever used a vape device: Smokers were more likely to believe e-cigarettes are less harmful if they currently use one; 89% compared to 62% of smokers who have never vaped.
Regular teen smoking has continued to drop. A quarter of pupils (25%) reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, up from 22% in 2014. Regular vaping has increased from 1% to 2% since 2014. This means tobacco-related harm has been reduced without triggering an “epidemic”. Boys were more likely than girls to be current e-cigarette users.
The number of prescription items dispensed as an aid to stop smoking in England was 740,000 in 2018-19, compared to 2.26 million 10 years ago and a peak of 2.56 million in 2010/11. The reduction in cost has been influenced by the rise of vaping, which has saved the NHS money.
- NHS Statistics on Smoking, England 2019 – [link]