Number of Older Smokers in the UK Increase For the First Time In Years

Number of older smokers in the UK increase for the first time in years

Reasons for growing numbers of adult smokers in the UK

Recent research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has highlighted that smoking rates for older adults grew from 16.1% in 2016 to 16.8% in 2017, which is a reversal of the downward trend that had consistently been seen for many years. These stats were published in June 2018 and form part of the ONS annual publication “Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain”.

Experts are of the opinion that the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) regulations play a large part in the growing numbers of older adults smoking in the UK. This is due to the ban on sales of e-liquids that contain more than 20mg/ml nicotine. It’s recognised that when smokers first begin to vape, they tend to opt for significantly higher levels of nicotine in e-liquids, to cope with losing the “hit” of cigarettes. This amount of nicotine is then gradually reduced as the former smoker’s dependence on cigarette smoking wanes. It really does seem, therefore, that the TPD ban on higher doses of nicotine in e-cigs doesn’t make sense. 

Dr Lynne Dawkins who works for the Centre for Addictive Behaviours Research commented that statistics she has compiled are showing that vapers are compensating for the lower allowable levels of nicotine in e-liquids by vaping more often. She added that she does not see any sense in the TPD restrictions. She said: “There is no rationale for that cap – it seems arbitrary to me. There’s no evidence for increased harms of nicotine for levels above 20mg/ml. In light of research by our group, if you reduce the strength you compensate – that’s costly financially, and comes with a health cost”.

MP’s are being urged by anti-smoking experts to dump these TPD2 restrictions following Brexit as the regulations are perceived to be ineffective. Smoking cessation has stalled since the launch of TPD which is a sad sign as Public Health England have openly endorsed vaping as a safer alternative to smoking. In all, the total number of smokers switching to vaping dropped from 800,000 in 2016 to 100,000 in 2017. 

It’s not all bad news on the smoking front, however, as rates of smoking for young adults dropped in 2017. 

Although over one-third of smokers has never tried out an e-cigarette, it seems the rapid growth in vaping and use of e-cigarettes has stalled at this moment in time. A spokesperson for ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) commented that the reasons smokers cited for failure to trial out e-cigarettes are concerns surrounding their safety and about whether or not they are addictive. The spokesperson added that: “It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking”.