GSTHR Report Shows Momentous Rise in Vapers Confirming Global Data

The latest paper from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) shows a significant rise in the number of people who vape worldwide, roughly reaching 82 million.

Published this week in Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, the new peer-reviewed paper estimated there are now approximately 82 million vapers worldwide. This equates to a 20% increase in 2021 from the 68 million in 2020.

Discussing the paper, one of the study authors K.A.C. Director and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London, Prof Gerry Stimson, said that this new estimate is evidence that consumers find vaping products effective. In fact, he added, the UK’s recent move to give away free vapes to smokers seeking to quit, should illustrate how this rise in vaping rates should be viewed as an opportunity.

The increase in vaping leads to decreased smoking rates worldwide
In fact, recent data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, revealed that around 13.3% of people aged 18 or over smoked cigarettes in 2021, as opposed to 14.0% in 2020. This drop coincided with the well documented increase in vaping rates.

The ONS data revealed that 7.7% of those aged 16 and over said they used e-cigarettes compared to 6.4% in 2020. While the relative drop in smoking rates (to 13.3%) is significant given that 20.2% smoked. James Tucker, data and analysis for social care and health division at the ONS, reiterated that these are the lowest smoking rates ever recorded.

The ONS reiterated that vaping has played a “major role” in reducing smoking in the UK. Their data also indicated that vaping is highest among current smokers at 25.3% and ex-smokers at 15.0%. Only 1.5% of people who have never been smokers are current vapers.

US data
Similar trends have been observed in the US. Director of the North Dakota Department of Health & Human Services’ tobacco prevention and control program, Neil Charvat, has recently shared data revealing how the significant increase in vaping across the state has corresponded to a decrease in smoking.

A Dakota research team analyzed nationwide data on tobacco product use among 8th, 10th and 12th-graders from 1991 to 2019. The compiled data indicated that daily smoking rates among 12th-grade boys rose by 4.9% a year between 1991 and 1998, but fell by 8% a year between 1998 and 2006, and by 1.6% from 2006 to 2012. Moreover, there was a 17% annual decline between 2012 and 2019, with overall, daily smoking among 12th-graders dropping to about 2% by 2019.

This positive pattern was consistent amongst boys and girls in all grades and for both black and white teens. The researchers observed a similar drop in teen use of cigars, cigarillos and smokeless tobacco.

Alaska reports the highest increase in vaping rates in the US
Meanwhile, a report for Alaska compiled by HealthAdvisor using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, revealed that the Northern US state has the nation’s highest rate of increase in vaping. The report specified that the rate of vaping among young adults aged between 18 and 24, has more than tripled, from 4.8% in 2019 to 15.8% in 2021.

Similar figures were documented in the 2022 Alaska Tobacco Facts update released in December by the Alaska Department of Health. However, notably missing from these figures is how they relate to smoking rates. Is this increase is vaping parallel to a decease in smoking as is normally the case?

In line with the above findings, recent reports from Europe indicated that the increase in use of alternative nicotine products such as vapes, snus and nicotine pouches, has led to a drop in smoking among Danes.

Data released by Denmark’s National Institute of Public Health and the University of Southern Denmark on behalf of the Danish Health Authority, was based on a survey of 9369 young participants. The report revealed that 35.1% of 15- to 29-year-olds used alternative products daily, up from 26.3% in 2020. In parallel, overall cigarette use dropped from 20.1% to 19%, and the overall percentage of smokefree nicotine products rose from 9.1% to 12.9%.