Today, charity Action on Smoking and Health reveals that the number of vapers in London has fallen between 2019 and 2020, reflecting a national decline in the number of people using e-cigarettes. The charity warns that unfounded concerns about health risks from e-cigarettes may mean thousands of smokers who could benefit from completely switching are missing the chance.
The new figures come as experts publish an international review of the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in quitting smoking finding that they are more effective at helping people quit than the standard medication for smokers: nicotine replacement therapy. The Cochrane review found that e-cigarettes were 70% more effective at helping smokers quit than the use of nicotine replacement therapy.
Data from ASH’s annual survey with YouGov found that in February/March 2020, there were 3.2 million e-cigarette users in Great Britain, down from 3.6 million in 2019. In London, there are an estimated 370,000 vapers in 2020, down from 490,000 in 2019. Almost all users are smokers or ex-smokers, with use among never-smokers very low.
The charity points to a disappointing stagnation in the numbers of smokers who are using e-cigarettes, given their proven impact on helping smokers quit. There has been little growth in the rate at which smokers use e-cigarettes since 2014. In 2020, 17.4% of smokers were using an e-cigarette, almost unchanged from 2014, when 17.6% reported current use. Unfounded concerns about the relative safety of e-cigarettes are a likely cause – just 39% of smokers in Great Britain correctly believe vaping is less harmful than smoking in 2020.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH says:
“About a third of smokers have never even tried an e-cigarette and less than 20% are currently using one. If many more smokers could be encouraged to give e-cigarettes a go the latest evidence indicates that many more might successful quit.
“Health professionals have an important role to play. They can give smokers the confidence to try an e-cigarette, by letting them know that they can help them manage cravings and that they are a much safer alternative than continuing to smoke.”
Dr Nick Hopkinson Reader in Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College London and Chair of ASH said:
“I see people every day in clinic whose lungs are damaged by smoking – many have tried to quit repeatedly but not been able to. E-cigarettes can help those who might otherwise struggle to quit successfully. I would urge colleagues throughout the NHS to join me in encouraging those smokers who could benefit to try using an e-cigarette. The more smokers we can get to quit today, the fewer people will be in our clinics and hospitals tomorrow.”