U.K. smoking levels have fallen to just 13.3 percent—the lowest since records began—according to new government data that says vaping played a “major role” in the decline.
The latest data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that the smoking rate for 2021 is down from the previous low of 14 percent in 2020, which means that there are around 6.6 million smokers in the U.K.
The ONS said this was the lowest proportion of current smokers since records started in 2011, based on estimates from the Annual Population Survey.
The report said: “Vaping devices such as e-cigarettes have played a major role in the decrease in smoking prevalence in the U.K.
“In this bulletin, we have reported an increase in e-cigarette use, and organizations such as Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) have reported similar increases in e-cigarettes (vapes) usage among adults in Great Britain.”
In the U.K. as a whole, 15.1 percent of men and 11.5 percent of women smoked, a trend that has been consistent since 2011.
The 25–34 age group had the highest proportion of current smokers (15.8 percent) while those aged 65 and over came in lowest (8 percent).
People without qualifications were more likely to be current smokers (28.2 percent) than those whose highest level of education was a degree or equivalent (6.6 percent).
Among respondents to the ONS survey, 7.7 percent said they currently used an e-cigarette daily or occasionally.
According to the authors, this equates to around 4 million adults in the population, an increase on the estimate from 2020, when 6.4 percent of people reported daily or occasional e-cigarette use.
Tobacco harm reduction advocates were elated by the decline in smoking. “This is absolutely fantastic news, and I am delighted that the U.K.’s vaping industry is playing its part in making this happen,” said John Dunne, director general of the U.K. Vaping Industry Association, in a statement.
“The government must now redouble its efforts to ensure that it gets its 2030 smoke-free ambitions back on track so that smoking can finally be consigned to history.”
Dunne said stakeholders should capitalize on the momentum by reaching out to remaining smokers and giving them the facts that they need to make the switch to vaping. “We must allow vape companies to use agreed health claims and switching messages to encourage adult smokers to switch to e-cigarettes and make full use of the different methods of communication available to the government and public health bodies,” he said.