Smokers may put off quitting but researchers suggest spike in sales of new form of tobacco may no longer be the norm
A spike in the number of smokers who are purchasing new products that pack in as much nicotine as cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, may no longer be a “normal” part of smoking, new research suggests.
Scientists found that a spike in e-cigarette sales is now six times higher than in the prevalence of people who had never smoked.
Researchers at University College London analysed US sales of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. It found that in 2014 sales of e-cigarettes totalled more than $1.3bn (£822m), and the figure rose by 4.5% last year.
The rise is in stark contrast to the previous trend. Last year, e-cigarette sales only comprised 0.6% of US cigarette sales, or slightly less than half a billion dollars.
In 2013 e-cigarette sales were worth $66m but in 2014 they jumped to $1.08bn. For comparison, conventional cigarette sales in 2014 totalled $141bn.
The findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, could suggest the trend for buying newer, more stylish and marketable products and larger volumes of cigarettes is over.
“Most smokers make a transition from cigarettes to alternatives in about five years but we don’t know why this newer trend of almost doubling the market could be a one-off,” said the study’s author, David Carpenter from UCL’s department of general medicine.
“Because of the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes there is an opportunity to investigate their role in helping some smokers become less dependent on cigarettes and to help keep former smokers from smoking again.”
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said: “The study confirms what many have been saying: the introduction of the e-cigarette was an ideal opportunity to wean smokers off cigarettes but, with cigarette sales on the rise, it seems the UK is stuck in a smoking rut.
“It is therefore likely that smokers are struggling to quit, either because they do not want to or cannot find an alternative that meets their needs.”
Richard Thompson of Health Foundation, said: “The UK government must understand what it means to be addicted to smoking. Use of the Vype tobacco model, which contains nicotine amount in a similar percentage to a normal cigarette, suggests that young people may have less conviction about the harms of smoking than we think.
“Smoking as an addiction is unique. You cannot instantly stop after only six years of use, as the study is suggesting. There are some promising new research initiatives that could help develop sustainable strategies to help smokers stop, such as working on new treatments for addicts to help them overcome nicotine addiction.”
The research, led by Dr Matthew Saunders of UCL Department of general medicine, suggests that there are positive alternatives to quitting such as using e-cigarettes.