Vaping in 2020

2 July 2020

Today we’ll be reviewing the latest findings from Public Health England (PHE) on vaping in England at the start of 2020. PHE post these regular updates as despite the reduction in the prevalence of smoking, it remains the biggest single cause of preventable death and disease and a leading cause of health inequalities and vaping is seen as an excellent route to help people quit smoking. PHE constantly promote that alternative nicotine delivery devices, such as vape products, are less harmful and could play a crucial role in reducing the health burden on the NHS.

Vaping among young people
The prevalence of young people vaping in England has remained reasonably steady over the last few years, with recent estimates stating just 5% of 11 to 18-year-olds in 2019 vape weekly or even less frequently. The numbers increase by age, starting with less than 1% of 11-year-olds and rising to 11% of 15-year-olds. These young people typically had experience of smoking and less than 1% had never smoked before trying a vape product.

When it comes to sourcing their vaping products, almost 60% of 11 to 15-year-olds who vaped regularly (more than once a week) reported being given the products, mostly by friends. Many also reported buying vaping products from other people, including unscrupulous brick and mortar shops or online stores.

The perception of the relative harms of vaping compared to smoking are out of line with the scientific evidence. The proportion of 11 to 18-year-olds who thought that vaping was less harmful than cigarettes declined from 68% in 2014 to 52% in 2019.

Vaping among adults
Current vaping prevalence among adults in England has remained stable since 2014, and in 2019 was between 5% and 7%. For those who identified as smokers, vaping prevalence varied between 14% and 20%, again showing little change since 2014. Those most likely to vape are still likely to be a smoker or a former smoker, with under 1% of people who have never smoked saying they currently vaped.

As with vaping among young people, the perceptions of harm from vaping are increasingly out of line with the evidence. The proportion who thought vaping was less harmful than cigarettes declined from 45% in 2014 to 34% in 2019. 

One interesting piece of information is that vapers said that banning flavoured liquids would deter them from using vaping products to help them quit or reduce their smoking, and could push current vapers towards illicit products.

In general news, smoking among adults in England has continued to decline over the past 10 years and in 2019 was around 15%. This is fantastic news for the vaping industry as the use of vaping products was identified as one of the most popular ways people used to help them quit smoking.

ADACT’s Chief Regulatory Officer, Damien Bové, said “Overall it is positive that as an industry we are seeing slight increases in the use of our products as an aid in stopping smoking. My main points of concern are that there is still an alarming number of people under 18 who have access to vape products, and there is a worrying trend in communicating the health benefits of vaping over smoking. Much more work needs to be done to effectively communicate this to both a younger and adult audience and bring public perception back in-line with scientific findings.”

You can read the report in full along with extra information on vaping among people with mental health conditions and vaping during and after pregnancy on the Public Health England website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vaping-in-england-evidence-update-march-2020/vaping-in-england-2020-evidence-update-summary#vaping-among-young-people 

Source: Public Health England

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