This looks at the data and findings of the most recent update (March 2014) carried out by Robert West, Jamie Brown and Emma Beard at the University College London on behalf of Smoking in England.
The first key fact they pull out is in relation to the safety of vaping. It is ranked as safe as using patches, oral products, nasal sprays and SNUS. The figure they place upon it is that vaping is at least 20 times safer than smoking. A welcome statistic contrasted to the conjecture offered up without support of research elsewhere.
They have collected and analysed data from 2011 using monthly surveys involving 1,800 people and say that e cigarette use has now levelled out at 16% of current or recent smokers and are used daily much more by ex-smokers than current smokers – a statistic which makes sense given that current smokers tend to vape in places where smoking is prohibited.
What they have observed is a drop-off in the use of traditional nicotine replacement therapy products (NRT) but that the increase in use of e cigs has more than made up for it. What will be a surprise to vapers is that around 80% of electronic cigarettes are used by people who classify themselves as current smokers, making the diehard vaping community count for just one fifth of users.
Of great interest is that they have measured an increase in desire of smokers to quit as vaping has become more widespread, that there has been an increase in the number of attempts to quit smoking and that the success rate has almost doubled from 5% of people who try per year to just under 10%. There is a direct link between availability of e-cigs, use of e cigs and being able to quit smoking.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise to discover that the numbers of cigarettes being sold has seen a continual decline over this period and a drop from 24.2% of the population smoking in 2007 to 17.8% in 2014.
When they looked at use of e cigs by people who had never smoked before they stated that the numbers were so small as to be statistically insignificant. This therefore squashes all arguments regarding the packaging, availability, ease of use, flavouring or “status symbol” enticing non-smokers to take up vaping and then acting as a gateway into smoking.
What they do point out is that the overall market for both cigarettes and other forms of nicotine delivery are in decline, although from the graph the level appears reasonably static for the last three quarters for non-cigarette nicotine use. Their statement could reflect the ability of vapers to regulate their own nicotine content and gradually decrease it and doesn’t take into account people who vape 0% nicotine liquids for the flavour and experience alone.
What they state from their findings is that the market for e cigarettes has, in their words, stalled. It has been thought of by vendors on social media forums that vaping would continue to grow exponentially but this does not appear to be the case.
They do surmise that the argument that e cigarettes re-normalise smoking holds no water. They say that the evidence all points to exactly the opposite, that vaping is contributing to an ever-increasing number of people being able to quit smoking for good.
West, R., J. Brown, and E. Beard, Trends in electronic cigarette use in England. Smoking in England, Amoking Toolkit Study (2014): Available from: http://www.smokinginengland.info/latest-statistics/