The report highlights the growing perception among the public that e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoked tobacco, placing this in the context of the vaping-associated lung injury outbreak in the USA last year.  

The report makes clear that, while all adverse reactions must and will continue to be assessed, the recent incidents in the US are not attributable to the regulated nicotine vaping products that are sold in England.

Nevertheless, the outbreak was reported on extensively in the UK, and this has renewed concerns that false fears about the vaping products on offer here could be preventing some of our remaining seven million smokers from making an e-cigarette-aided quit attempt. Just one in three smokers (34%) now believe that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes, down from almost a half (45%) in 2014. Worryingly, this belief is especially common among smokers who do not vape. 

The main findings of the report include that:

  • Among young people, there has been little to no change in vaping prevalence, with current best estimates at 5% of 11-to-18 year-olds. Fewer than 1% of young people who have never smoked are current vapers.
  • There should be continued close monitoring of vaping and smoking prevalence among young people, as well as improvements in age of sale regulation enforcement.
  • Among adults, vaping prevalence has remained stable at around 5% to 7% since 2014, with again fewer than 1% of those who have never smoked currently vaping.
  • A ban on flavoured liquids could have unintended consequences by deterring smokers from using regulated vaping products to quit, and so should be considered only with caution.
  • There is a lack of evidence on vaping among people with mental health conditions and pregnant women. More research is needed on prevalence, safety, and effectiveness in quit attempts of e-cigarette use in these groups.
  • NHS England should issue guidance on vaping in mental health trusts, as recommended by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee in 2018. [1]

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “The key message for smokers remains clear: vaping carries a substantially lower health risk than smoking, and for anyone who has struggled to quit we strongly recommend switching to an e-cigarette as it could considerably improve your chances of success, especially when combined with behavioural support.

“However, it is clear there is vital work to be done in better communicating these positive messages to the public. More and more smokers today have views that are out of step with the evidence, and it is not hard to see how these misperceptions could translate to real-world consequences, if they go unaddressed.”