Vaping in the UK Annual Review

An annual report commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) on vaping in the UK, was published on Tuesday 26 February 2021.

The main findings show using a vaping product is the most popular aid used by people trying to quit smoking. In 2020, 27.2% of people used a vaping product in a quit attempt in the previous 12 months. This compares with 15.5% who used NRT over the counter or on prescription (2.7%), and 4.4% who used varenicline.

Vaping is positively associated with quitting smoking successfully. In 2017, over 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking.

Prescription medication and licensing NRT for harm reduction were also positively associated with successfully quitting smoking. This shows how important it is for people who smoke to have access to a wide choice of cessation aids.

The extensive use of vaping products in quit attempts compared with licensed medication suggests vaping products may reach more people who smoke and so have more impact than NRT and varenicline.

English stop smoking services findings show that Between April 2019 and March 2020, 221,678 quit dates were set with a stop smoking service and 114,153 (51%) of these led to self-reported quits 4 weeks after the quit date.

A vaping product was used in 5.2% of quit attempts. This was either using the vaping product alone, at the same time, or following use of a licensed medication. Consistent with findings in our previous reports, the highest quit rates (74%) were seen when the quit attempt involved people using a licensed medicine and a vaping product one after another. Quit rates were similar for people using a vaping product and licensed medication at the same time (60.0%), a vaping product alone (59.7%) and varenicline alone (59.4%).

Quit rates involving a vaping product were higher than any other method in every region in England. These ranged from 49% in the South West to 78% in Yorkshire and the Humber.

An ASH survey of tobacco control leads found that only 11% of local authority stop smoking services offered vaping products to some or all people making a quit attempt.

Studies show that tens of thousands of smokers stopped because of vaping in 2017, like estimates in previous years.

Compared to the 2018 review, there is stronger evidence in this year’s report that nicotine vaping products are effective for smoking cessation and reduction.

As suggested in previous evidence reviews, combining vaping products (the most popular source of support used by people making a quit attempt in the general population), with stop smoking service support (the most effective type of support), should be an option available to all people who want to quit smoking.

Local authorities should continue to fund and provide stop smoking services and all stop smoking services should have a consistent approach to using vaping products.

Further research is needed to assess whether smokers who use stop smoking services and vaping products differ from smokers who use the services and other smoking cessation aids.

Further research is needed into the barriers and enablers to using vaping products as part of a supported quit attempt in stop smoking services.

Studies including newer types of vaping products that have better nicotine delivery are needed.

Vaping in England: evidence update February 2021