Smoking rates continue to fall

The latest update has been released for the Smoking Toolkit study and it contains some really positive news regarding smoking rates and e-cigarette usage in England.

Smoking rates drop to 14.7%
The Smoking Toolkit study collects data on smoking prevalence and e-cigarette use through monthly household surveys and has been collecting information since November 2006. Since the surveys began, they have tracked a continuous decline in smoking rates which has continued through 2021 to see rates drop to 14.7%. This includes a significant drop in smoking rates among 18 – 21-year-olds, which has gone from 21.4% in 2020 to 19.8% in 2021.

Considering the difficult times that were seen during 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is amazing to see that smoking rates have continued their downward trajectory. This comes after there was a recognised uptake in smoking midway through the year attributed to the stress of the pandemic, which was fortunately short lived.

E-cigarettes more popular than NRT
The study has found that e-cigarette use has remained stable since 2013, rising last year to a peak of 7.3% of adults. This rise in popularity has accompanied a drop in the use of licensed nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and prescription medication, as e-cigarettes become the preferred stop smoking aid of many during their quit attempt. This is a really positive observation as e-cigarettes have been repeatedly found to be more effective at aiding smoking cessation than NRT, offering users a higher chance of a successful stop smoking attempt.

Another finding is that e-cigarette use among never-smokers continued to be ‘very rare’ and is similar to the rates of never-smokers using NRT.
There has been an increase in long-term ex-smokers commencing use of an e-cigarette. This describes people who have successfully quit smoking for one year or longer and is likely due to them feeling that their abstinence from smoking was in jeopardy and choosing to use an e-cigarette rather than return to smoking.

The study did identify that around 50% of current vapers are ‘dual-users’, which describes those who both use an e-cigarette and smoke. This is usually as a way to decrease the number of cigarettes they smoke, and although this does reduce the harm of smoking somewhat, it is preferable to fully make the switch to vaping.

An interesting observation from the data is that e-cigarettes are much more popular among younger ex-smokers in comparison to NRT, whereas those who are 65+ prefer NRT. This is likely due in part to the older generations being more familiar with NRT options like nicotine patches and gum which have been a recognised stop smoking aid for some time. Whereas e-cigarettes are a much more novel alternative to smoking which have only become widely available in the last decade.

It is fantastic to see that in spite of the difficulties many faced in 2021, smoking rates have continued to decline as so many people make the switch to vaping. We can only hope that 2022 continues these trends and we see smoking rates continue to fall as more people commence their stop smoking journey with the help of an e-cigarette.

At a glance
·The Smoking Toolkit study has published the latest findings and cigarette smoking rates have now dropped to 14.7%
·E-cigarette use by never-smokers continues to be 'very rare'
·Growth in e-cigarette use has been accompanied by a reduction in use of licensed NRT and prescription medication