There could be almost as many electronic-cigarette users as traditional tobacco smokers by 2018, a study says.
The number of e-cigarette users – also known as ‘vapers’ – tripled from 700,000 to 2.1million between 2012 and 2014, according to charity Action on Smoking and Health.
Meanwhile, the number of smokers has fallen from almost a quarter of adults in 2007 to 18 per cent – around 10million people – now, the research service Smoking in England reports.
This trend may be partly driven by tobacco smokers trying e-cigarettes. In 2010, 9 per cent of them had done so, according to ASH, but by last year this had risen to 52 per cent.
The suggestion that smokers may simply be ‘switching’ instead of quitting appears to be reinforced by market figures – which show sales of nicotine patches and gum have slipped as ‘vaping’ has grown in popularity.
The figures were reviewed by e-cigarette brand VIP, which predicts there will be around 6million users by 2018. Company co-founder Dave Levin said the market ‘is still growing’.
E-cigarette firms currently face little regulation, but from next year they will have tougher controls under the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. This will include more robust testing of ingredients.
Tom Pruen, Chief Scientific Officer at ECITA – the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association – said: ‘We know that it’s notoriously difficult to give up smoking and the knock-on effects to health can be extremely damaging.
‘In the UK, around 100,000 people die each year due to smoking, and a smoker’s average life expectancy is 10 years less than that of a non-smoker.
‘However, for those who have been unable to quit – or who are unwilling to – e-cigarettes offer an alternative without the tar and smoke generated by burning tobacco.
‘Smokers smoke for the nicotine, but it is the tar and other by-products of combustion that kill.
Therefore, e-cigarettes offer the potential to massively reduce the devastating effects that cigarettes can have on smokers and their families.’
Recently, two separate papers in the UK accused the World Health Organisation of exaggerating the dangers posed by e-cigarettes.
One, which was published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that for every million smokers in the United Kingdom who turned to e-cigarettes, 6,000 premature deaths would be prevented each year – which would have a huge impact on public health, let alone NHS budgets.
VIP co-founder, Dave Levin, believes that the upcoming changes to e-cigarette regulations could mean that more people become vapers, eventually matching – or even outnumbering – the number of smokers.
He said: ‘While the e-cigarette market is still growing, there are still a lot of sceptics who don’t trust the ingredients and worry about the possibility of them glamourising smoking.
‘It’s up to brands and retailers to advertise responsibly and ensure that they’re arming their target audiences with the relevant information they need to make an educated choice.
‘We’re confident that as e-cigarettes continue to rise in popularity, more people will ditch the cigs and switch to vaping.
‘While vaping won’t directly lead to becoming a non-smoker, it can certainly help many people on their way, cutting out the more harmful substances found in cigarettes.’