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Research reveals over 1 million smokers in England use e-cigarettes to quit

New research from University College London has revealed that in 2015 the number of smokers in England who used an e-cigarette in an attempt to quit smoking reached more than 1 million. The research comes as thousands of smokers make a quit attempt this No Smoking Day, Wednesday March 9.

E-cigarettes have overtaken licensed nicotine replacement therapies such as NRT, gum or skin patches as the most popular form of support to stop smoking, and they continue to increase in popularity.1

Data from the last 3 months of 2015 showed that almost a third (33% / 2.6 million) of the 8 million smokers in England tried to quit smoking last year. Nearly two-fifths (40% / 1 million) of these smokers used an e-cigarette in at least one of their quit attempts compared to just over a quarter (26% or 686,000) who used a licensed nicotine product in their quit attempt.1

The results come from The Smoking Toolkit Study, a large national household survey of smoking patterns which questions around 1,700 adults who smoke in England every month.2

The study also shows that by the end of 2015, 20% (1.6million) of smokers were using an e-cigarette.3 Research conducted by Action on Smoking and Health shows that when smokers and ex-smokers are combined there are currently 2.6 million adults in the UK using e-cigarettes.4

Previous studies have found that use of an e-cigarette in a quit attempt improves the chances of success by around 50%, compared with using no aid or a licensed nicotine product bought from a shop with no professional support.5,6

Professor Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at UCL and lead researcher, said: “E-cigarettes have overtaken more traditional methods as the most widely used support for smokers wanting to quit. Their impact on public health at present comes from attracting people who would otherwise have tried to stop without any useful form of support. We estimate that e-cigarettes have probably helped around 20,000 smokers to quit each year, that wouldn’t have otherwise.7

“We can do much better in encouraging more smokers to try to stop and ensure that they are well informed about the best ways of succeeding. The strongest evidence is for use of a prescription medicine plus specialist behavioural support but e-cigarettes can be helpful for smokers who do not want to use professional support.”

Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at BHF, said: “Although e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking cigarettes, there is no doubt that more research is needed into the potential long term effects of the use of them. This unique study shines a light on just how popular e-cigarettes have become as an aid for smokers trying to quit and we need to listen to what is helping people the most on their path to a smoke free life.

“We already know that nearly one in five adults in the UK smokes, and it is essential that they are supported and informed on their journey to quitting for good. We’re asking smokers to use Wednesday 9 March to take the first step towards a smoke-free life and join more than 600,000 others who will also be making a quit attempt on the day.”

A recent poll of smokers and vapers in England8 for No Smoking Day showed that nearly 70% of all e-cigarette users have now given up smoking completely. The poll also highlighted:

  • 65% of e-cigarette users say they are using them as a quit aid to stop smoking tobacco
  • 77% of all e-cigarette users would like more research to be done into the potential risks of using e-cigarettes.
  • 34% of all smokers polled said they are confused about the health messages they get around e-cigarettes.

Brian Ashton, 48, smoked for thirty years. He finally quit five years ago, with the aid of an e-cigarette.

Brian says: “I tried to quit smoking many times – I made at least 20 attempts. I tried patches, gum, sprays and inhalers but in the end e-cigs worked for me.

“I still use an e-cig occasionally, but now with no nicotine. I definitely think more research should be done into the dangers of vaping as e-cigs are so popular, and people should know the risks. That said, I still think it’s a great alternative to smoking.”

According to Public Health England, using e-cigarettes are probably around 95% safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes.9

To receive information and support on stopping smoking visit nosmokingday.org.uk.