UK Tobacco Data Shows As ‘E-Cigs Have Become Popular, Smoking Rates Have Fallen’

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

New data released by health officials in the U.K. shows roughly 1.6 million smokers have quit and transitioned to vapor products over the past six years.

The U.K.’s Office of National Statistics released an annual report Tuesday investigating adult smoking habits in the country, which found a 15.1-percent adult smoking rate in 2017, down from roughly 20 percent in 2011. The decline was tracked along with an increase in the rate of electronic cigarette usage, which rose from 3.7 percent in 2014 to 5.5 percent in 2017, reported the Mirror.

Of the roughly 2.8 million current users of vaping devices in the U.K., 1.6 million are former smokers who have fully transitioned off cigarettes since 2011. Only 0.4 percent of vapers in the U.K. identify as having never smoked combustible tobacco. (RELATED: Royal College Of Physicians Says Failing To Support Alternatives For Smokers Is ‘As Negligent As Not Treating Cancer’)

“As e-cigs have become popular, smoking rates have fallen,” said James Dunworth, director and co-founder of E-Cigarette Direct, according to the Mirror. “The trend is only going one way.”

The U.K. currently has the second-lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and vaping is a big part of the reason, officials said. The country is a global leader in tobacco harm reduction policy, encouraging smokers to ditch combustible tobacco for a healthier option.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) agrees that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harmful side effects attributed to smoking. The medical body also recommends vaping for patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products.

Experts with the RCP recently said denying smokers a “cost-effective” alternative during care is “as negligent as not treating cancer.”

Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health, published an independent review of existing research on e-cigarettes on Feb. 6 from experts in the tobacco field. The review shows the devices are accelerating annual declines in the country’s smoking rate.

Public health experts focused on harm reduction say federal and local health regulators in the U.S., who remain adversarial toward alternative smoking technologies, could learn a lot from the approach of medical bodies in the U.K. They argue vaping should be promoted as a way to reduce smoking prevalence and improve health outcomes for millions of Americans.

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