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IBVTA statement on the clear warning from new ASH/YouGov survey

New data on the behaviour and attitudes to e-cigarettes among adults aged 18 and over has been published today by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The Smokefree GB analysis conducted by ASH is based on data collected by YouGov for ASH in February and March 2023. Alongside the survey factsheet, ASH have also published a document addressing common myths about vaping.

Some headline findings within the analysis are that:

  • There are now 4.7 million adult vapers in Great Britain
  • 7 million of these are ex-smokers and 1.7 million are current smokers
  • With the numbers of never smokers now vaping down from 8.1% last year to 6.7% this year, it does not appear that the recent boom in single use vapes is attracting adult never smokers
  • The most commonly used type of device remains a refillable tank system, with 50% of current vapers reporting this type as their main device
  • Fruit flavours now the most popular at 47%, followed by menthol at 17%. Tobacco flavour has fallen to third most popular at 12%
  • Very few report using products with no flavours, reiterating the vital role that flavours play in both adult smoking cessation, and preventing relapsing to smoking.

The most alarming statistic within the findings however, is that while 94% of smokers had heard of e-cigarettes or vapes, 40% incorrectly believe vaping is as or more harmful than smoking up from a third last year and one in five in 2019.

This trend is completely at odds with the fact that research over that period consistently shows that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, and furthermore, that switching to vaping reduces exposure to some of the main cancer causing chemicals by 97%.

Prof Caitlin Notley, Professor of Addiction Sciences, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, said this disconnect demonstrates an increase in inaccurate public perceptions, probably driven by media reporting.

Dr Sharon Cox, Principal Research Fellow in Behavioural Science and Health, University College London, claims it is the poor reporting of studies, as well as poorly conducted studies, which has led to widespread misperceptions.

Professor Ann McNeill, of King’s College London, has said that anxiety over youth vaping is obscuring the fact that switching from smoking to vaping will be much better for an individual’s health.

The IBVTA fully concurs, and since our founding in 2016, we have repeatedly demonstrated instances where bad science has led to alarmist media headlines and inaccurate reporting of the relative safety of vaping compared to smoking.

Gillian Golden, IBVTA’s CEO said: “The good news here is that there are 4.7 million adults in Britain who have taken a really positive step in improving their health by switching to vaping. The clear warning from this survey however, is that if the media, government and the independent industry don’t manage to get across the message that switching to vaping is safer that continuing to smoke, we risk costing lives.”

 

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