Vaping has risen rapidly over the past decade to reach record levels in Great Britain with an estimated 4.3 million people who are regular vapers, according to a report.
The data suggests 8.3% of adults in England, Wales and Scotland vape, up from 1.7% a decade ago, which equated to about 800,000 people. Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), which produced the report, said a “vaping revolution” had taken place over the past decade.
Hazel Cheeseman, Ash’s deputy chief executive, said the increase in smokers switching to vaping was “great news”.
“They can be lifesaving tools for those struggling to quit. At the same time, we can’t rely on vaping to fully solve the problem of smoking. We must address the recent increase in youth vaping and put in place wider efforts to address smoking as vaping won’t work for everyone. The time for government action is now,” she said.
Of the 4.3 million vapers, about 2.4 million are ex-smokers, 1.5 million current smokers and 350,000 have never smoked a cigarette. Cheeseman said vaping among the last group tended to be “rare” and “experimental”.
The report showed e-cigarettes were becoming especially popular among young people, with 18- to 24-year-olds the biggest consumers in 2022, at 11%. This has grown since 2021, when they had the lowest vaping rate at 5%. People 55 and over now have the lowest rate, at 5.9%.
Cheeseman said she was concerned by this, especially after earlier research showed vaping among children aged 11 to 17 was up from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022, although it is illegal to sell vapes to under-18s. However, research also shows smoking is going down as vaping increases.
The report, which is based on Ash’s annual Smokefree GB survey of more than 13,000 adults from across Great Britain, conducted by YouGov, found 28% of current smokers had never tried an e-cigarette, with 21% saying they did not want to substitute one addiction for another. Twenty-three per cent thought vaping was not similar enough to smoking and 10% said they were “concerned e-cigarettes are not safe enough”.
A third of adults said they believed vaping was more, or equally harmful, as smoking, which the report’s authors said was incorrect.
In 2022, 35% of current vapers also smoked. Among this group, those who vaped daily smoked fewer cigarettes than those who did so less frequently.
One in five former smokers said they used a vape to help them quit, but more than half (56%) who are ex-smokers said they had been vaping for more than three years.
Vapers said the main reason they used e-cigarettes was for quitting smoking and to prevent them from returning to smoking, while 14% said they used vapes because they enjoyed it and 11% to save money.
Smoking is becoming less popular in the UK. Data from the annual population survey found smoking prevalence among adults aged 18 and over in England declined from 20% to 14% between 2011 and 2019. The Ash report found e-cigarettes were responsible for an estimated 69,930 additional former smokers in England in 2017.