Vaping remains a popular aid for quitting smoking, study reveals

E-cigarettes in England were the most popular alternative to stop smoking in 2020 with 27.2% of smokers using a vaping product to quit compared with 18.2% using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, according to a report of Public Health England (PHE).

The study suggested that using a vaping product as part of a quit attempt in local stop smoking services had some of the highest quit success rates – between 59.7% and 74% in 2019 and 2020.

Vaping prevalence was between 17.5% and 20.1% among current smokers, about 11% among former smokers, and between 0.3% and 0.6% among those who have never smoked.

Besides, the proportion of vapers who also smoke, or are dual users has declined since 2012.

The report also revealed that vaping has plateaued in adults and young people since the last PHE report in March 2020 due to increasing misperception of the relative risk of vaping products compared to smoked tobacco.

In 2020, 38% of smokers believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking, and 15% believed that vaping is more dangerous. This is out of line with expert reviews from the UK and US, concluding that using regulated nicotine vaping products is far less harmful than smoking.

Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said “The best thing that a smoker can do is to stop smoking completely, and the evidence shows that vaping is one of the most effective quit aids available, helping around 50,000 smokers a year to quit. Thousands more could have quit except for unfounded safety fears about e-cigarettes. The evidence has been clear for some time that, while not risk-free, vaping is far less harmful than smoking.”

Professor Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction at King’s College London and lead author of the report, said, “What is concerning is that smokers, particularly those from disadvantaged groups, incorrectly and increasingly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking. This is not true and means fewer smokers try vaping.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said, “As we strive to achieve a smokefree nation by 2030, more needs to be done to support adult smokers who could benefit from switching to do so while eliminating loopholes in the laws which could be used to promote products to teenagers.