E Cigarette Trends in England, United Kingdom
A team at University College London completes four data reviews per year looking at the trends in electronic cigarette use. Professors Kock, West, Beard, Kale, and Brown have been keeping a check on vaping since it began to take off in England and have conducted many related studies. The first analysis of 2022 displays that e-cigs remain to go-to choice for smokers looking to quit.
Vaping as a method of quitting tobacco use took off in England in 2011. Ecigs were being used before but in very low numbers. Between 2011 and 2014 the technology exploded and the number of people vaping increased tenfold.
As vaping gained in popularity, smoking declined from 20% of the population to a record low of 14% by 2019. This was aided in no small part due to “consensus across England’s public health community that e-cigarettes are substantially safer than smoked tobacco, a lack of evidence of harm to bystanders from exposure to e-cigarette vapor, and guidance issued by Public Health England that encourages evidence-based policies that distinguish between smoking and vaping.”
We entered into a period where electronic cigarettes became regulated as consumer products with strict controls to ensure quality, safety and reliability – making the UK the world leader when it comes to tobacco harm reduction.
Why do we need to monitor e-cig use in England?
The government has a target of achieving a smoke-free England by 2030. Vaping is seen as an important tool in helping to achieve this and University College London monitor key performance indicators for tobacco control (smoking prevalence, smoking cessation rates, attempts to stop smoking, success of attempts to stop smoking).
Previous University College London updates identified that the number of electronic cigarette users had begun to fall a couple of years ago. Immediately, questions were asked why this was happening and plans were set in place to conduct research to identify the reasons why vapers were returning to smoking and smokers were more reluctant to make the switch.
The ensuing research highlighted that misinformation was playing a key role in this retrograde step. People mistakenly believed that e-liquid use was as dangerous or more dangerous than smoking.
Pressure has been placed on the government by academics and cross-party Parliamentary groups to address this. Although we are still waiting for a plan of action to be announced as part of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations, the new University College London trend update offers hope for the future.
The researchers have found that the number of people vaping has recovered from its recent decline and that electronic cigarettes are the most popular choice as a quit smoking tool.
They say that the use of e-cigs by people who have never smoked is “very rare” and is working well as an intervention to prevent ex-smokers returning to smoking.
More people are starting to use higher strength e-liquids with a growing number of people using more than the legal limit of 20mg/ml.