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E-cigarette use plateaus among British smokers


An independent report, led by researchers at the National Addiction Centre at the IoPPN and commissioned by Public Health England (PHE), finds regular e-cigarette use among British adults has plateaued and just over a third of adult smokers have never tried one. Only 4% of quit attempts made through Stop Smoking Services use an e-cigarette, despite this being an effective approach.

The report is the first in a new set of three commissioned by PHE under the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England. It looks specifically at use of e-cigarettes rather than health impacts, which will be the subject of a future report.

Regular e-cigarette use among adults remains largely confined to smokers and ex-smokers, with quitting smoking the main motivation for adult vapers. The report found 5-6% of adults use e-cigarettes and less than 1% of people who have never smoked. 

Smoking rates among adults continue to fall with just under 15% of adults in England smoking, according to government figures. The report recommends that Stop Smoking Services should do more to encourage smokers that want to quit with the help of an e-cigarette. 

The findings also show that while experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people has increased in recent years, regular use remains low. Only 1.7% of 11-18 year olds use e-cigarettes weekly or more, going from 0.4% in 11 year olds to 2.6% in 18 year olds, and the majority of those also smoke. Among young people who have never smoked only 0.2% use e-cigarettes regularly.

Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at the IoPPN says: ‘We are encouraged that regular vaping among young people in Britain who have never smoked remains low. However, we need to stay vigilant and in particular closely monitor youth smoking. With just over a third of adult smokers having never tried an e-cigarette, there is a clear opportunity for more smokers to try a method which has helped many others to quit. Smokers should be advised to stop smoking as soon as possible and explore all available options for support, including e-cigarettes.’

Dr Leonie Brose, Senior Lecturer in Addictions at the IoPPN, says: ‘While overall rates of vaping among adults have not risen, we have seen an increase in rates of vaping among ex-smokers. It is important to find out if vaping stops people from relapsing to smoking and to what extent this depends on how people vape – things like which device people use and how often they use it. Lower socio-economic groups are disproportionately affected by the harms from smoking, so knowing more about the effect of vaping on relapse could help tackle health inequalities.’ 

Mr Rob Calder, a researcher at the National Addiction Centre at the IoPPN , says: ‘Our report suggests that combining e-cigarettes with face-to-face support should remain a recommended option available to all smokers. If you are one of the many thousands of people who have tried and struggled to quit smoking, you should consider using an e-cigarette ideally, alongside support from your local Stop Smoking Service.’

Dr Debbie Robson, Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher in Tobacco Addiction at the IoPPN says: ‘Overall, England continues to take small steps towards ensuring vaping remains an accessible and appealing alternative to smoking, whilst at the same time limiting the uptake of vaping among young people who have never smoked. There remains no medically licensed e-cigarette in England, or anywhere else in the world. A licensed e-cigarette might attract more smokers to vaping and may also encourage Stop Smoking Services to have more conversations with smokers about the merits of switching to vaping.’


‘Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019, A report commissioned by Public Health England’ by McNeill et al


For further media information please contact: Robin Bisson, Senior Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, / +44 20 7848 5377 / +44 7718 697176.