The decline in UK Smoking rates has followed an S-shaped curve with vaping being a positive contributor.
A group of medical researchers have recently published a study which assesses the trends which have resulted in a decline in UK smoking rates. The research analysed the correlation between smoking prevalence and the introduction of various factors. These factors include initiatives and policies, as well as the introduction of e-cigarettes to the UK market.
The research was led by Dr Emma Beard, University College London and published in the BMJ Thorax Journal. The data was collected between the years of 1973 and 2016. The principal findings show that UK smoking prevalence follows an S-shaped curve. In simple terms, this means that declines in smoking rates are reactive to major tobacco control initiatives.
As a number of initiatives were introduced, the decline in smoking rates began to accelerate, in the late 1990s. In 2013, rates then began to accelerate rapidly with more and more quitters each year.
How have e-cigarettes affected the decline in UK smoking rates?
The study shows that e-cigarettes have directly impacted smoking rates in a positive way. It also dismisses the idea that the rise in popularity of vaping could lead non-smokers to start smoking, which is known as the gateway theory.
The gateway theory is often raised in relation to e-cigarettes, particularly in the USA. It suggests that vaping could renormalise smoking and lead people to go from vaping to smoking. This theory has been debunked in many studies from reliable sources and this recent research also dismisses the claim. It states:
“A further contentious issue that has arisen more recently is whether the increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use in countries such as the UK and the US may be renormalising smoking and preventing declines in smoking prevalence that might otherwise have occurred.”
The theory is dismissed in the conclusion of the study, which states:
“The persistence of a near linear decline in smoking prevalence does not support concerns that increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use—as has been observed in Great Britain since 2011—would renormalise smoking and prevent declines that might otherwise have occurred”
Not only is the gateway theory dismissed, the researchers conclude that vaping has positively affected the decline in UK smoking rates. Importantly, the conclusion explains that this correlation has been adjusted for a wide range of potentially confounding factors.
“In fact, the trend observed is consistent with a time series analysis conducted in 2016 over a time period of 10 years, which suggested that e-cigarettes have contributed to the decline in smoking prevalence by helping some smokers to quit successfully. That study showed an increase in the success rate of quit attempts associated with the increase in prevalence of e-cigarette use, after adjusting for a wide range of potentially confounding factors including policy initiatives.”
Vapers already know the great potential that e-cigarettes have, however many are still sceptical about vaping. We hope that policy makers take this research into account when introducing and updating initiatives and policies.
The government has set a target of creating a smoke-free UK by 2030. Health experts believe that the remaining smokers in the UK are the most stubborn group. Many of these smokers are from deprived areas or manual workers.
With e-cigarettes now being proven to accelerate the decline in smoking rates, there is an opportunity to help vaping reach its full potential and help this group of smokers ditch the cigarettes. We have already seen what a great impact vaping can have on this economic segment from the Salford Swap to Stop pilot. With more pro-active vaping initiatives, we could see another acceleration of the decline in UK smoking rates.