New research from non-profit Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows electronic cigarette use is still on the rise in the UK, with 2.6 million people now using vaping devices, up from 2.1 million in 2014.
An increase of 500,000 in the number of UK vapers is great news for the e-cig movement, but what’s most important is that an analysis by researchers at King’s College London showed the increase is attributable to a rise in the number of ex-smokers using electronic cigarettes. They showed that electronic cigarette use among ex-smokers increased from 4.5% in 2014 to 6.7% in 2015, but remained unchanged among current smokers, at 17.6%. E-cig use among never smokers remains extremely low, with just 0.2% of users falling into this category over the last three years.
Another interesting finding was that the most important reasons people gave for using electronic cigarettes was to help them quit smoking completely (48%) and to prevent them from going back to smoking.
Analysis of the data compiled by Action on Smoking and Health also revealed a change in the devices used by vapers. If cigalikes were used by over half of UK e-cigarette users (55%) last year, second generation vaporizers (eGo style e-cigs, tank systems, etc.) are now being used by two thirds of users (66%). Several studies, including a recent one carried out at King’s College London showed new generation electronic cigarettes are much more effective at helping smokers quit.
“The number of ex-smokers who are staying off tobacco by using electronic cigarettes is growing, showing just what value they can have,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH. “But the number of people who wrongly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking is worrying. The growth of this false perception risks discouraging many smokers from using electronic cigarettes to quit and keep them smoking instead which would be bad for their health and the health of those around them.”
Arnott was addressing a very worrying problem revealed by this latest research. Analysis showed that nearly a quarter of the UK population now believes electronic cigarettes are as harmful or even more dangerous than tobacco cigarettes, compared to only 15% last year. This development is no doubt due to the massive anti-vaping campaign carried out by e-cigarette opponents and propagated by mainstream media.
“We must clearly communicate the relative safety of electronic cigarettes to smokers,” said Dr Leonie Brose, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. “The proven harm of tobacco is currently getting less coverage than the much smaller and far less certain harm from electronic cigarettes. We owe it to smokers to provide them with accurate information.”