As anyone who has been outside in the past few months could have guessed, vaping is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. Now, research proves this beyond doubt: a new report from Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) has found that 8.3 per cent of adults in England, Wales and Scotland vape, up from 1.7 per cent ten years ago.
Of the 4.3 million vapers, about 2.4 million are ex-smokers, 1.5 million current smokers and 350,000 have never smoked a cigarette. Hazel Cheeseman, Ash’s deputy chief executive,said vaping among the last group tended to be “rare”.
Vapers said the main reason they used e-cigarettes was for quitting smoking for good, while 14 per cent said they used vapes because they enjoyed it. 11 percent said they did it to save money.
The report also found that e-cigarettes were becoming especially popular among young people: 18 to 24 year olds were the biggest consumers of e-cigarettes in 2022, with 11 per cent of the demographic regularly vaping. No doubt the popularity of Elf bars – cheap, disposable vapes which come in a variety of sweet flavours – has contributed to this meteoric rise.
The rise of vaping is nothing to panic about, though: research has shown that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking cigarettes and is helping as many as 20,000 people a year quit smoking. Even the NHS website recommends vaping as a way of quitting smoking, and Cheeseman described the findings as “great news”.
While vaping is not entirely harmless and can become an expensive habit over time, we shouldn’t freak out about this new data. As Britain has a tendency to be focused on prohibition when it comes to addressing addictive substances like drugs, perhaps we should regard our more liberal, harm reduction-focused approach to smoking and vaping as a small, progressive win.