UK survey shows sharp rise in daily vapers, while smoking figures conflict

There was a sharp rise in the number of daily vapers in Britain between 2020 and 2021 particularly among men aged 25-34 according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The data also suggests a significant increase in smoking in the UK, thought by many to be a result of Covid-related measures.

The percentage of respondents to a survey saying they smoked regularly rose from 6.5% in 2020 to 11.3% the following year, according to annual data issued by the ONS last month. However, this differs from another survey showing smoking rates falling from 14% in 2020 to 13.3% in 2021.

The ONS collects data on adult smoking habits using two surveys: the Annual Population Survey (APS) provides headline indicators of smokers aged 18 and over, while more detailed information on smokers and e-cigarette users aged 16 and over is collected in the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).


The gender divide


The OPN survey shows a large jump in vaping daily e-cigarette use by men aged 25-34, from 4.6% in 2020 to 11.3% in 2021, while the percentage of men in the same age range who were occasional users fell from 4.3% to 2%.

There is still a marked gender divide, with men more likely to vape than women. However, the data shows a rise in e-cigarette use among both men and women.

The percentage of daily users was around 4.9% in 2021, up from 3.8% in 2020. The percentage of occasional users and those who merely said they had used one previously dropped slightly, to 2.8% and 6.3% respectively.

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    A change in survey mode did not impact data from the OPN during the pandemic, and estimates are consistent with those published previously. However, the questions about smoking habits and e-cigarette use were significantly reduced. For example, questions on frequency of use and average daily e-cigarette consumption have been temporarily discontinued.


    The Irish question


    In Ireland, the Healthy Ireland Survey, which took place between November 2021 and July 2022, found the use of e-cigarettes was highest among the under-25s, with 6% in that age group currently using them. Around 3% of the Irish population currently use e-cigarettes, with another 3% reporting that they have tried them in the past but no longer use them.

    The survey found 18% of Irish people are current smokers, with 14% smoking daily and 4% occasionally. The proportion of daily smokers has declined from 16% in 2021 to return to pre-pandemic levels, as seen in the 2019 survey.

    According to the Irish survey, men are more likely than women to smoke across all age groups, with the differential being widest among those aged 25-34. Just over a third (34%) of men and 14% of women in this age group smoke, with 27% of men and 10% of women in that age group being daily smokers.

    Around 46% of Irish smokers said they had attempted to quit in the last 12 months, with 23% of those being successful.

    Antonia Di Lorenzo ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Dave Price

    Antonia Di Lorenzo

    Assistant news editor/senior reporter
    Antonia is a member of the editorial team and holds a masters degree in Law from the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. She moved in 2013 to London, where she completed a postgraduate course at the London School of Journalism. In the UK, she worked as a news reporter for a financial newswire and a magazine before moving to Barcelona in 2019.

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