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New Study Shows Vaping Misinformation Has Affected Decline in UK Smoking Rates

By Grace Lynk 21st February 2024 3 Mins


University College London (UCL) have conducted a study which shows that the long-term decline in smoking across the UK has nearly ground to a halt, with misinformation on vaping being a predominant reason.

A new study from researchers at UCL implies that misinformation surrounding vaping in mainstream media has played a significant role in the decline of smoking rates.

The research, published in the BMC Medicine Journal, states that the slowdown in individuals quitting smoking began in 2020, and hasn’t shown real signs of improvement in the past four years.

Dr Sarah Jackson, the lead author from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, has said:

“Smoking prevalence has been falling among adults in England at a steady rate for more than 20 years.

“Our data shows that this decline has stalled, with an increase in quitting potentially having been offset by a rise in people taking up smoking or an increase in late relapse.”

This revelation has important implications for vape retailers, who have found that the devices aren’t being encouraged as a vital smoking-cessation tool, but instead as a health threat comparable to traditional tobacco.

Vaping manufacturers are urging people to see that studies such as this one are definitive proof that now, more than ever, would be the worst time to ban vapes in the UK.

Marcus Saxton, the chairman of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), has acted as a spokesperson for the industry, stating:

“This important research from UCL shows that the government’s smoke free ambition is stalling.

“The authors also rightly point to the media attention on vaping and the subsequent disconnect between the substantially greater risks from smoking.

“43 percent of smokers believe that vaping is equally or more harmful than smoking, an increase of 60 percent since 2019.”

Concerns regarding misinformation have plagued the vaping industry for years, but with the statistics being shown in black and white, individuals like Marcus Saxton are more determined than ever to speak up.

He continued:

“These are truly shocking figures, reflecting the never-ending cycle of negative stories on vaping. Therefore, it is no surprise that smoking rates remain stubbornly high.

“The focus on vaping, particularly single-use products that are important to quit attempts, is driving this misperception.

“We welcome proportionate legislation, but these smoking figures show now is not the time to ban those vaping devices and flavours that are crucial in getting smokers to quit tobacco.”

IBVTA and the UCL Research Team are not the first to bring these issues to light, with Cancer Research UK also arguing that in order to encourage smoking cessation, bolder measures are needed to prevent rising numbers.

The UK Government have set a target for the country to be smokefree by 2030, a projection that Cancer Research have recently deemed to be unlikely.

As it stands, they have predicted that England is currently nine years off-target for the smokefree ambition, defined as the average adult smoking rate being five percent or less across the country.

“We welcome proportionate legislation, but these smoking figures show now is not the time to ban those vaping devices and flavours that are crucial in getting smokers to quit tobacco.“



About this author

Grace Lynk