We know that smoking is bad for us and the recent deaths in the US from vaping have ignited fresh concerns. But are we smoking more? And what about vaping, is it still as popular? We take a look at the very latest statistics on both.

The state of play: Smoking in the UK

Many people directly link the decline of smoking and the rise of vaping with changes in the law as to where people can smoke.

In 2007, smoking was banned in some public space in the UK, a move that had a dramatic impact. The pressure on smokers didn’t stop there. Smoking in cars with children present was banned, a law that took effect from 1st October 2015.

The effect of these laws along with the constant annual increases in the price and taxation of cigarettes and other tobacco products have taken effect, along with known health concerns which have a proven link to smoking.

That said, 14.7% of people in the UK in 2018 – around 7.2 million – still smoked in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics data. This was a 5% decline on data collated in 2011. The information also shows that men are more likely to smoke than women and Scotland had the highest proportion of smokers, with 16% of the population regularly smoking.

Quitting smoking – how is that going?

The smoking ban of 2007 is thought to have been a significant factor in driving people to quit smoking. At the time, nearly half of smokers professed to trying to quit. But as time moved on, the figure is thought to have dropped to around 33%.

There is no denying that kicking the habit is tough. As well as nicotine, a substance found in cigarettes, being highly addictive, there are also behavioural habits that need to be broken too.

It may be what smokers want to hear but there is research that suggests it takes 30 attempts to quit smoking. But there is loads of help and support for anyone looking to quit smoking:

  •         Your GP and smoking cessation groups – your GP can help you quit by referring you to a local smoking cessation group that include support with quit smoking aids such as gum or patches.
  •         NHS – you can also access some support services direct, take a look at the NHS advice of quitting smoking.
  •         Apps – there are apps too such as Livecoach for Apple users and Quit Now! for Android users that help keep your motivation strong.
  •         Vaping – some people replace smoking with vaping and there are many reasons why this makes sense;

o   Costs less than smoking

o   Less harmful than smoking

o   You can control the nicotine level of vape juice

o   Is regulated in the UK, so when you buy from British manufacturers and leading brands, you know you are getting not only a safe product but a great one too.

Is the end in sight for smoking?

Possibly, although there is still a lot of work to do to continue to support and encourage smokers to kick the habit. No longer seen as a social hobby, people in the UK are less likely to start smoking tobacco products.

Globally, 5.8 trillion cigarettes were smoked, with China topping the board as a nation with the highest proportion of smokers.

But what about vaping? Is it a good alternative to smoking?

Vaping statistics for the UK 2019

The number of people vaping in the UK has significantly increased since 2012. In fact, in a five period from 2012 to 2017, the number of people who turned to e-cigarettes and vaping devices increased by 314% from 700,000 to 2.9 million.

How old is the average vaper?

Vaping by age follows a similar pattern to smoking by age with those aged between 25 and 34 years old more likely to vape, followed by the age group 35 to 49 year olds. Whilst there are concerns about young people and vaping, the statistics don’t seem to support the supposed ‘endemic of vaping in teens’ theory.

Are men more likely to vape than women?

Again, the statistics relating to vaping and gender appear to emulate those of smoking with there being more men than women who vape. Men are also more likely to experiment with vaping than women, although the gap is a mere few percentage points.

How often do people vape?

The majority of vapers – around 70% - report that they vape every day with a small number vaping once a week and a smaller proportion still vaping once a month or less.

Why do people vape?

The answer appears overwhelming – the majority of vapers say that they vape as means of kicking the habit. Since 2015, the number of long term ex-smokers who vape is thought to be continually growing. There is some suggestion that apart from peaking in January and February, probably as a result of New Year resolutions, the use of nicotine replacement products are declining, to around 3% back in 2014.

What’s the global vaping picture?

Vaping in the UK is commonplace. You are more likely to see someone vaping that smoking, especially in public places. As the third-largest vape market, the UK is leading the way of vaping technologies too.

The US is the biggest market followed by Japan, which is why the recent deaths linked to vaping in America have hit hard. ‘Illicit vaping fluid’ is thought to be the root of the problem, something not found in the UK.

How does vaping affect health?

We all do things (or don’t do things) that impact on our health. Lack of exercise, for example, is harmful to our health. Although we know that smoking has a significant impact on our health, research on vaping is yet to give conclusive answers.

That said, the results thus far are looking promising with vaping still considered much safer than smoking. That said, ingesting substances whether that is tobacco smoke or vapour into our mouth and lungs that we shouldn’t, will have some kind of effect. But as yet, science is not sure the extent of any health issues relating to vaping.

What does all this really mean?

Lies, damned lies, and statistics is a phrase that describes the persuasive power of numbers and data. Those against vaping will use the stats to show that vaping is a ticking time bomb but those in favour of vaping will use them to bolster their argument.

It shows that smoking in the UK is at the lowest level is has been for decades, a good sign for the health of the nation. They also show that the people turning to vaping are doing so for their own reasons, with fewer people turning to vaping who are non-smokers.