The seventh report in the series of independent report on vaping in England commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and carried out by researchers at King’s College London is now available. The report summarises the evidence on vaping products to inform policies and regulations is now available. The latest report holds vital findings for the future of vaping throughout Northern Ireland and the UK.

Main Findings

Vaping products containing nicotine were the most popular smoking cessation aid used by 27.2% of smokers aiming to quit smoking in England in 2020.

Approximately more than 50,000 smokers quit smoking in 2017 using a vaping product who perhaps may have continued smoking.

In 2020, 15% of smokers believed vaping to be more harmful than smoking and 38% viewed vaping to be as harmful as smoking.

Vaping products held the highest successful smoking quitting rates in 2019 (59.7%) and in 2020 (74%).

About the Report

The latest report delves into the latest evidence on the effectiveness of vaping products containing nicotine in aiding smokers to quit smoking. The report also reviews the use of nicotine vaping products among young people and adults and examines the data on people’s perception of risk.

The Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London and lead author of the report, Professor Ann McNeill commented:

“Our report draws together findings from randomised controlled trials, stop smoking services and population studies and concludes that nicotine vaping products are an effective way of successfully quitting smoking”.

It is likely that COVID-19 has impacted upon smoking and vaping behaviours in both young people and adults. Although, it is too early to assess the full effect of the pandemic as most of the data examined in this report was prior to the pandemic.

Vaping in Young People

It is estimated that 4.8% of young people (aged 11-18 years) reported vaping at least once a month, with most of these young people being either current or former smokers. This figure is the same as the figure recorded in the previous year. Only 0.8% of young people reported that they have never smoked or vaped. The main reason for vaping in young people were: “give it a try”, “for fun/I like it”, “liking the favours”.

Vaping and smoking prevalence among young people in England both appear to have remained the same in recent years and should continued to be closely monitored.

Vaping in Adults

Smoking prevalence among adults in England continues to decline and was between 13.8% and 16.0%, depending on the survey, equating to approximately 6 to 7 million smokers. There is a higher smoking prevalence among adults from more disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

The Director of Health Improvement at PHE, Professor John Newton commented:

“Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease – killing almost 75,000 people in England in 2019. The best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers quit a year”.

Approximately 6% of adults in England are vapers, equating to approximately 2.7 million. Vaping prevalence was between 17.5% and 20.1% among current smokers, approximately 11% among former smokers and between 0.3% and 0.6% among adults who have never smoked.

The proportion of ‘dual users’ (vapers who also smoke) has declined since 2012. Among long-term former smokers, a decreasing proportion used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) with an increasing proportion using vaping products.

Relative Harm Misperceptions

There are still concerns surrounds increasing misperceptions of the relative risk cause by vaping products, compared to smoking tobacco. In 2020, 38% of smokers believed vaping to be as harmful as smoking and 15% believe that vaping was more harmful.

On this top, Professor Ann McNeill commented:

“What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping”.

Professor John Newton added:

“Thousands more could have quit except for unfounded safety fears about e-cigarettes. The evidence has been clear for some time that, while not risk-free vaping is far less harmful than smoking”.

2030 Smokefree Goal

A government consultation in 2019 outlined a new ambition for a smokefree England by 2030. It included an ultimatum to industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030, with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk nicotine delivery systems, such as vaping.

Professor Ann McNeill stated:

“The goal for 2030 is to be smokefree in England. The development of a new Tobacco Control Plan and this year’s review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 is an opportunity to ensure that the regulations around vaping are appropriate. The regulations are also hoped to help smokers to quit, while not attracting people who have never smoked”.

Chief Executive of ASH, Deborah Arnott added:

“As we strive to achieve a smokefree nation by 2030 more needs to be done to support adult smokers who could benefit from switching to do so, while eliminating loopholes in the laws which could be used to promote products to teenagers”.

Make the Switch

PHE’s advice remain that smokers should switch to vaping to help them quit smoking. Vaping products contain significantly less harmful chemicals than cigarettes.

Professor John Newton concludes:

“For anyone who smokes, particularly those who have already tried other methods, we strongly recommend they try vaping and stop smoking – ideally with additional support from their local stop smoking service for the very best chance of quitting for good”.

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Vaping in England: an eidence update including vaping for smoking cessation, February 2021