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E-Cigarette Use in the UK

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) recently published the results of their annual survey relating to the use and perception of e-cigarettes among the UK population. The results have been compared with that of previous surveys and show a consistent rise in prevalence of e-cigarettes and how this correlates with the decline in smoking rates.

Awareness and use of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are continuing to rise in popularity, with an estimated 7.1% of the adult population in the UK currently using an e-cigarette, which equates to about 3.6 million UK vapers. The vast majority of these vapers are current or ex-smokers, with 54.1% having successfully quit smoking with the help of an e-cigarette, and 39.8% being dual users. Dual users describe those who both smoke and vape, this is usually as a way to decrease the number of cigarettes they smoke daily, or as a stepping stone to giving up smoking entirely. Only 0.8% of never smokers are reported to vape, amounting to approximately 6.1% of vapers.

When compared to previous years, there is a clear increase in the use of e-cigarettes, with 3.6 million users in 2019, up from 3.2 million in 2018 and just 700,000 in 2012. There is little difference in e-cigarette use between genders, however, use varies between different age groups.

The peak age group for current e-cigarette use is 35-44 year olds, closely followed by 45-54 year olds. The lowest vaping rates are recorded by young adults, between 18-24 years old, followed by those over the age of 55.

The awareness of e-cigarettes has also increased dramatically, from only 49% of the adult population having heard of e-cigarettes in 2012, now 93% of the adult population are aware of e-cigarettes.

Attitudes towards vaping

The study found that, as with previous years, the main reasons given by ex-smokers for using an e-cigarette are to help them quit smoking and to prevent relapse. Dual users also gave the same reasons, as well as to save money on tobacco products.

Unfortunately, the proportion of smokers who do not use an e-cigarette and are correctly informed that vaping is less harmful than smoking has fallen from 54% last year, to 48% this year. This is an area that needs to be targeted, as there could be countless smokers who could successfully quit tobacco with the help of an e-cigarette, but have not because they falsely believe it to be just as harmful as smoking. The spread of correct information is something that has been a high priority for the vaping community and health organisations alike.

Vaping preferences

Tank system devices remain the most popular kind of e-cigarettes, however, pod systems are becoming more and more popular year on year. 64% of e-cigarette users report using a low to moderate nicotine strength e-liquid, between 1-12mg/ml and a whopping 39% of users have managed to decrease their nicotine strength over the course of using an e-cigarette.

The survey recognises that, while better tobacco control strategies such as the tobacco display ban and prominent health warnings on packets have played a big part in the decline in smoking, this also correlates closely with the rise in e-cigarette prevalence, suggesting that e-cigarettes have likely played some part in the smoking rate decline.

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