Cigarette use in young people hits all-time low as e-cigarette use remains constant

E cigarettes in a shop display

The proportion of young people who have smoked a cigarette has reached an all-time low, official figures from NHS Digital have found.

Some 13,664 children aged between 11 and 15 years were questioned for NHS Digital’s biennial Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England report for 2018.

The survey, published on 20 August 2019, found that 16% admitted to having smoked a cigarette. This is compared to the high of 49% in 1996 and was three percentage points lower than it was in 2016.

The number of young people who have never smoked a cigarette was 84% in 2018, slightly up from 81% in 2016.

Meanwhile, the proportion of young people who have used an e-cigarette stayed consistant at 25% between 2016 and 2018.

The report also shows an upward trend in young people choosing to buy e-cigarettes online, with 29% of young people relying on the internet for their purchase in 2018 compared to 23% in 2016.

By contrast, in 2016, 37% bought their e-cigarettes from a shop compared to 29% in 2018.

Some 6% of respondents were classified as “current” e-cigarette smokers in 2018, which includes children who vape less than once each week on average. Some 2% claimed to smoke e-cigarettes at least once each week on average.

The proportion of current and regular e-cigarette smokers has also remained the same since the 2016 questionnaire.

This report comes after statistics published on 3 July 2019 found that the proportion of cigarette smokers in England aged over 35 years fell from 14.9% in 2017 to 14.4% in 2018, while e-cigarette usage increased from 5.5% in 2017 to 6.3% in 2018.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, August 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206974