~ Vaping rates rocket to 4.3million – up 600k in 12 months

~ Scaremongering still rife – many smokers still think it’s worse to vape

ASH has released its annual Smokefree GB survey. As always, it’s packed with interesting statistics that are a barometer of the nation’s feelings about e-cigarettes and other harm-reduction products.

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) sponsors a YouGov survey each year. It’s a great source of information for anyone who is interested in vaping and harm reduction. 

Since 2010, they have been asking survey participants about e-cigarettes. ASH’s survey is always a great way to learn about vaping adoption, and this year is particularly interesting because it can tell us a lot about the impact of disposable vapes and the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, let’s dive into some of the key findings of the SmokefreeGB report.

#1. The number of UK vapers has increased to 4.3 million

In last year’s SmokefreeGB survey, the number of UK vapers was 3.7 million. However, the figure has grown by 17% in the previous 12 months to a staggering 4.3 million.

What that means is that 8.3% of UK residents are vapers. That’s a sizable chunk of the adult population. It shows us that if we can all get together, we could be an influential political force in ensuring that the country’s vaping and harm reduction policies are protected and advanced.

#2. Over55’s still aren’t sold on vaping

The SmokefreeGB survey looked at the ages of adult vapers in the UK. It found that vaping rates were:

  • 11% among 18-24-year-olds
  • 11% among 25-34-year-olds
  • 11% among 35-44-year-olds
  • 10% among 45-54-year-olds
  • 4.9% among 55 and over.

That’s quite a large drop-off. Additionally, it’s interesting to note that vaping rates are reasonably steady among 18-55-year-olds.

#3. 28% of current smokers have never vaped

More than 1 in 4 current smokers have never vaped. While this number is decreasing each year, it could tell us a lot about vaping misinformation. If smokers were getting the right information, i.e., that there is a cheaper and healthier way to consume nicotine, you would think that more people would be at least prepared to try an e-cigarette.

However, while the number has been dropping by an average of around 2% a year since 2017, it’s still quite high. Additionally, among the group of smokers who have never tried vaping, more than half smoke between 7-20 cigarettes a day, with 11% smoking over 20.

#4. Perception of harm from e-cigarettes

Another interesting annual question in the SmokefreeGB survey measures adults’ perceptions of the harm of e-cigarettes. 

Between 2015 and 2019, only 1 in 4 people surveyed believed e-cigarettes were as or more harmful than cigarettes. Despite NHS and PHE publishing research to the contrary, it didn’t seem to impact this cohort.

However, misinformation about the EVALI crisis in 2019-2020 does seem to have heavily skewed public perception. By 2020, 39% of people surveyed wrongly assumed that e-cigarettes were more harmful.

Correcting the record has proved tricky. In 2021, that number dropped to 32%, but it’s back up to 33% this year. As the old quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain quote goes, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes.”

The worst part about these statistics is that according to the SmokefreeGB survey, 34% of current smokers think that e-cigarettes are as or more harmful. These figures show the direct harm that misinformation can have on the general population. Think about all the people who are passing up on harm reduction methods that could save their lives just because of a sensationalist headline and reckless reporting.

Summary & conclusion

An increase in people using vapes to quit cigarettes is welcome but far too many smokers are still unaware of the benefits.  Government must do more to educate health care professionals and the public on the facts behind e-cigarettes, as recommended by the Khan Review, released in June.