Smoking prevalence, or the proportion of current smokers, in the UK has gone below 14 per cent for first time in years while vaping hit highest rates since records began, official data has shown.
According to the annual smoking prevalence report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published yesterday, the number of UK vapers had risen to 6.4 per cent – equivalent to around 3.3m people – in 2020, from 3.7 per cent in 2014, when the agency started collecting data on e-cigarettes use.
The report also reveals that the number of adult smokers in the UK currently stands at 13.8 per cent of the population – its lowest percentage since at least 2015.
However, according to the ONS monthly data, smoking rates rose sharply during the pandemic and national lockdown to a peak of 16.3 per cent in August, before slowly decreasing to 13.8 per cent by the end of 2020.
“While this rise in smoking prevalence during lockdown could be attributed to increased anxiety because of the pandemic, I would also point towards the fact that speciality vape shops were not granted ‘essential retail’ status and therefore had to close their doors as another significant contributing factor,” commented John Dunne, director general of the UK Vaping Industry Association.
The data comes just one month after the government announced that vaping devices could soon be prescribed to smokers on the NHS.
The ONS report also highlighted that the number of ex-smokers who now vape had risen from 11.7 per cent in 2019 to 12.3 per cent, while the number of smokers who also vape increased from 15.5 per cent in 2019 to 17.8 per cent in 2020.
Dunne said these figures show that the anti-vaping lobby’s attempts to smear e-cigarettes’ effectiveness at helping people to quit smoking are “simply not working.”
“Vaping advocates, on the other hand, have the science, political will and, increasingly, the healthcare sector’s support for increased use of vaping to help smokers to give up their habits for good,” he added.