If you have tried for years without success to give up smoking until you discovered vaping, you will be in very good company – and that’s official.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the proportion of people smoking in Britain is the lowest on record, with just 13.3 per cent of those aged 18 or over smoking in 2021. This equates to 6.6 million people.
England had the lowest rate of smokers at 13 per cent, with Scotland the highest on 14.8 per cent. The rate was 13.8 per cent in Wales and 14.1 per cent in Northern Ireland.
The national rate had been 14.0 per cent in 2020 and was as high as 20.2 per cent in 2011. Even the latter rate was low compared with the rate in the 1970s, when around half the adult population smoked. Now Britain has one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe.
While a range of factors such as knowledge of the health risks involved, the pub smoking ban implemented in 2007 as a result of the Health Act 2006 and curbs on advertising may all have played a role in the decline, in recent years it has become clear that people swapping the vape shop for the cigarette retailer has had an increasing impact.
This was shown by related research from the ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, which revealed that in 2021, 7.7 per cent of adults aged 16 and over used e-cigarettes. This was up from 6.4 per cent in 2020.
“The decrease in the proportion of current smokers may be partly attributed to the increase in vaping and e-cigarette use,” data analyst for the Health and Social Care Division of ONS James Tucker commented.
He added: “Data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) have shown regular use of a vaping device has increased in 2021 and the highest usage was among those aged 16 to 24 years.”
This suggests that young people are either nipping the smoking habit in the bud early by switching to vaping, or else using e-cigarettes instead of smoking to begin with.
As the ONS noted, this shift towards vaping among younger people – who remain the demographic most likely to smoke – is corroborated by other research on the topic, such as that carried out by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
Research by ASH published in August this year put the number of vapers in the UK at 4.3 million people, or 8.3 per cent of the population. As this figure is based on survey data collated in February and March 2022, it suggests that there has been a significant further increase since last year.
Perhaps most significantly, it also revealed that the majority of vapers (57 per cent) are ex-smokers, although this was down on the 64 per cent seen in 2021.
That suggests both that many people are still finding vaping a great tool to stop lighting up, but also that a growing number of people are taking up using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking in the first place.