Vaping: Number of British people using e-cigarettes rises by 12.5 per cent, study suggests

‘It isn’t risk free, but it’s much less risky than smoking,’ says King’s College London professor

Zamira Rahim
Tuesday 24 September 2019 07:18 BST
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Around 31 per cent of vapers are former smokers.
Around 31 per cent of vapers are former smokers.

Some 3.6m people in the UK are vaping, a rise of 12.5 per cent in one year, new research suggests.

Vapers make up 7.1 per cent of Britain’s population, meaning more people are using e-cigarettes than ever before.

The products are most popular among 35- to 44-year-olds, followed by 45- to 54-year-olds.

The lowest rates of use are among young adults, aged 18 to 24.

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), a charity, conducted the study. More than 12,000 people were polled for the research.

Around 31 per cent of vapers said they were former smokers who used the products to quit cigarettes.

“Vaping isn’t risk free, but it’s much less risky than smoking, which kills nearly 100,000 people a year in the UK,” said Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London.

A further 20 per cent said they had successfully quit smoking but vaped to prevent relapsing.

In the US flavoured e-cigarettes have been linked to a mysterious lung illness which has killed at least eight people.

At least 450 cases of the illness have been reported, according to health officials.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said the reports from the US were “obviously concerning” but appeared to be linked to the misuse of e-cigarettes for illicit drug delivery.

“Nothing like this has been seen in the UK to date, where a proper regulatory system is in place for nicotine containing e-cigarettes, which is not yet the case in the US,” she said.

“Vapers should not be scared back to smoking by the news of vaping illness in the US.

“Nor should smokers stick to smoking rather than switch to vaping. It is essential however, to only use legal vapes bought from reputable suppliers in the UK and not source illicit unregulated products over the internet.”

14 per cent of the vapers polled said they enjoyed using e-cigarettes, while 13 per cent said they used the products to save money.

Only 0.8 per cent of the vapers had never smoked. Of that small number, the vast majority – 73 per cent – said they began vaping to give it a try.

“Although e-cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid, our survey finds that in 2019 over a third of smokers have still never tried vaping,” Ms Arnott added.

“As Stoptober kicks off, we’d encourage smokers who haven’t done so yet, to give vaping a try.”

“E-cigarettes have been shown to be a very effective aid for smokers trying to quit, either on their own or with help from stop smoking services.”

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Previous research from the University of Leeds has suggested that young people who vape and do not smoke are more likely to try cigarettes than non-vaping peers.

Additional reporting by agencies

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