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Trends in electronic cigarette use in England.

Loren Kock, Robert West, Emma Beard, Dimitra Kale, Jamie Brown

Updated 27th July 2021

Background

Electronic cigarette use has become prevalent in many countries

In England, electronic cigarettes are currently regulated as consumer products

It is important to track use of electronic cigarettes and assess how far they appear to be promoting or detracting from reduction in prevalence of cigarette smoking

Aims

To track use of electronic cigarettes over time and assess how far any increase is accompanied by changes in:

  • use of other aids to cessation or smoking reduction
  • key performance indicators for tobacco control (smoking prevalence, smoking cessation rates, attempts to stop smoking, success of attempts to stop smoking

To assess prevalence of use of electronic cigarettes in people who have never smoked regularly or stopped for more than a year

To estimate changes in the total tobacco and nicotine market

Methods

Monthly household surveys

Each month involves a new representative sample (16 and over) of ~1800 respondents; smokers ~450

  • Due to the pandemic, from April 2020 surveys conducted by telephone (rather than face-to-face) and among adults aged 18 and over

Data collected on e-cigarettes since second quarter 2011

Fidler, et al., 2011. 'The smoking toolkit study': a national study of smoking and smoking cessation in England. BMC Public Health 11:479

Summary I

Use of e-cigarettes in adult population has remained relatively stable since late 2013

Use of Juul and heated tobacco products is rare

E-cigarette use by never smokers remains negligible but use among long-term ex-smokers has grown

E-cigarette use in smokers and recent ex-smokers has plateaued

The majority of both e-cigarette and NRT users are ‘dual users’ (also smoke)

A smaller proportion of both e-cigarette and NRT daily users are ‘dual users’ (also smoke)

Summary II

Frequency of use among users is greater in ex-smokers

The majority contain nicotine and later generation devices are more popular with ex-smokers

Ex-smokers use e-liquids with stronger concentrations of nicotine. A minority of smokers did not know the strength

Specialist vape shops are most popular source for purchase

E-cigarette use is least popular with older smokers while NRT use is lower among younger smokers

There was similar use of e-cigarettes in past-year smokers from different social grades in 2020

Summary III

E-cigarette use has plateaued among smokers

E-cigarette use among recent ex-smokers has declined from a peak in 2016

E-cigarette use for quitting has declined from a peak in 2016

  • Growth in e-cigarette use has been accompanied by a reduction in use of licensed nicotine products and prescription medication but the trajectories appear to be different

The proportion of recent ex-smokers who started using an e-cigarette declined from a peak in 2015

Summary IV

The long-term decline in the prevalence of cigarette smoking continues

The smoking cessation rate, and the success rate in those who have tried to stop smoking, increased after 2011 before plateauing until a further increase in 2020

The rate at which smokers have tried to stop in the past year decreased from 2015 before increasing in 2020

A declining majority of current smokers believe e-cigarettes are equally harmful as cigarettes. The proportion who are unsure about the relative harm increased in 2020.

Conclusions

E-cigarette use has remained relatively stable since 2013

Current use of e-cigarettes by never smokers remains very rare and similar to use of licensed nicotine products; use among long-term ex-smokers appears to be increasing

Growth in e-cigarette use has been accompanied by a reduction in use of licensed nicotine products and prescription medication but the trajectories appear to be different

There has been a long-term decline in the prevalence of cigarette smoking since 2007

The trajectories for smoking prevalence and quit attempts differ from that of prevalence of use of e-cigarettes

Success rates in stopping smoking increased after 2011 and again in 2020