E-Cigarette use remains low in Britain, report finds

Press release issued by Fresh North East:

  • Public Health England report finds regular vaping in under-18s remains low and a third of adult smokers have never tried one
  • Fresh calls for more acceptance of e-cigs in the NHS
  • Only 4% of quit attempts made through Stop Smoking Services use an e-cigarette, despite this being an effective approach

Fresh has welcomed a new report on electronic cigarette use in Britain. It shows less than one in 50 under 18s are regular vaping, and most adult vapers are using their devices to try to quit smoking.

Weekly vaping [i] among young people remains low in Britain and has plateaued among adults, the independent report led by researchers at King’s College London and commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) has found.

The findings show that while experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people has increased in recent years, regular use remains low.[ii] Only 1.7% of under-18s use e-cigarettes weekly or more and the vast majority of those also smoke. Among young people who have never smoked, only 0.2% use e-cigarettes regularly.[iii]

Regular e-cigarette use among adults has plateaued over recent years and remains largely confined to smokers and ex-smokers, with quitting smoking the main motivation for adult vapers.

But despite e-cigarettes now being the most popular quit aid, just over a third of smokers have never tried one.[iv] Only 4% of quit attempts through Stop Smoking Services in England are made using e-cigarettes, despite this being an effective approach.[v] The report recommends that Stop Smoking Services should do more to encourage smokers that want to quit with the help of an e-cigarette.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: “Tobacco smoking will kill at least one in two long term smokers. By contrast vaping is estimated to carry a fraction of the risk, and unlike tobacco and there is no evidence of any secondhand harm to bystanders.

“If more smokers switched completely to vaping we could see a significant reduction in premature deaths and life limiting diseases caused by tobacco. At a time when NHS Trusts and GPs are being encouraged to do more to treat tobacco dependency, we should be re-assured about the role e-cigarettes can play to improve the health of patients and give them the best chance of quitting for good.

“Electronic cigarette products are now the country’s most popular quitting aid, and we need to support anyone using them to stay tobacco free.”

Dr Chris Tasker, CRUK Strategic GP for the Northern Cancer Alliance, said: 
“There is still a lot of confusion surrounding vaping as many people believe it is as harmful as smoking, when in fact vaping poses much lower risks to someone’s health. I regularly get asked questions by my patients – is vaping safe? Is it safer than smoking? My response to them is that smoking is the worst thing you can do for your health and vaping is much less harmful. Lots of my patients who’ve had trouble trying to quit for years and years, have managed to stop with the help of an e-cigarette.

“The advice I give my patients is that stopping smoking is the best thing they can do for their health. There are much fewer chemicals in vaping than in cigarettes, so it is far less harmful than smoking and can be helpful to people who might otherwise struggle to quit.”

The report says that combining e-cigarettes with face-to-face support should remain a recommended option available to all smokers. It calls for stop smoking practitioners and health professionals supporting smokers to receive education and training in the use of e-cigarettes in quit attempts. Online training is now available via NCSCT.


[i] Regular use is defined as those using e-cigarettes at least weekly

[ii] Young people aged between 11 and 18. 0.4% of 11 year olds and 2.6% of 18 year olds report at least weekly use in 2018. Public Health England, Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019, p. 11. [Original source: ASH Smokefree Great Britain Youth Survey 2018]

[iii] 1.7% of 11-18 year olds reported at least weekly use in 2018. Regular use of EC remains very low among never smokers (0.2% of 11-18 year olds in 2018). Public Health England, Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019, p. 11. [Original source: ASH Smokefree Great Britain Youth Survey 2018]

[iv] Public Health England, Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019, p. 90

[v] The proportion of quit attempts using an EC remains very small (4.1% of all quit attempts in Stop Smoking Services). Public Health England, Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019, p. 13

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