For the first time, more than half of e-cigarette users in the UK are ex-smokers, according to the results of the annual Smokefree GB survey, published on 8 May 2017.
Pollsters calculate that 1.5 million (or 52%) of the 2.9 million British e-cigarette users are ex-smokers, compared with 1.3 million who also still smoke traditional cigarettes.
But the poll, carried out for smoking cessation charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), found that only 13% of respondents knew that e-cigarettes posed fewer health risks compared with traditional cigarettes, with 26% thinking e-cigarettes were more or equally harmful.
In 2012, some 700,000 people used e-cigarettes in the UK. Today, this figure is 2.9 million, but growth has slowed as fewer smokers understand the reduced risk of vaping compared to smoking tobacco, according to the report.
A spokesperson for ASH said the findings highlighted a “communications challenge” that needed to be addressed — a message which will interest community pharmacies that offer smoking cessation services.
The results were welcomed by Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London. “This is encouraging news as we know that vapers who continue to smoke continue to be exposed to cancer-causing substances,” she says.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, says: “It’s excellent news that the number of vapers who have quit smoking is continuing to grow, but there are still 9 million smokers compared to only 1.5 million vapers who don’t smoke [tobacco] at all.”
The figures were based on results from an online poll by YouGov of 12,696 adults between 16 February 2017 and 19 March 2017, as well as official population figures.