Vape Statistics 2023
Vaping has seen an incredible boom in popularity in recent years, especially among young adults and older teenagers. For the uninitiated, vaping refers to the process of inhaling vapour created by an electronic device (commonly referred to as a vape or an e-cigarette,) which typically contains a mixture of nicotine, flavourings, and a base vapour.
While the use of vapes is booming, it can be difficult to find relevant information on the topic - with that in mind, we decided to compile all the relevant data we could find on the topic in this comprehensive statistics guide.
Where is the data from?
Data has been taken from a wide range of sources, including news outlets, polling companies, and international and national health organisations, with the goal of providing a comprehensive overview of topics such as health risks, popularity by demographic, regional popularity and regulatory concerns, broader legal issues, and predictions on growth in both the short and long term.
Much of the data currently available points to the fact that vaping is significantly safer than smoking. However, it should be noted that long-term data is not currently available, and as a result, it’s not possible to make fully accurate long-term predictions on the health-related implications of vaping.
Research suggests that the increase in e-cigarette use among teenagers may be related to the variety of flavours available. Many e-cigarette companies have marketed their products with flavours such as fruit, candy, and mint, which may be more appealing to younger users - this is supported by a survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health, which found that more than 80% of youth e-cigarette users cited the availability of flavours as a primary reason for their use.
While many people argue that e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, there is still some research indicating that they can cause harm. The CDC has reported that e-cigarette use can lead to nicotine addiction, and there are other questions that arise from certain studies listed in this study as well. It’s important to look at all the available data when making a decision
Emerging global regulatory patterns
It’s still early days, and vaping is seeing an increasing number of restrictions in a lot of locations. In the US for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has implemented regulations requiring e-cigarette manufacturers to submit their products for FDA approval before marketing them. A lot of other countries have implemented their own regulations, such as raising the minimum age for e-cigarette purchases or banning flavoured e-cigarettes altogether.
Despite these regulations, e-cigarette use is becoming increasingly popular. As the popularity of vaping continues to grow, it’s important that everyone fully understands all of the statistics surrounding vaping, including the potential health benefits and risks associated with e-cigarette use. Based on this data, individuals can make informed decisions on what’s best for their health, and policymakers can take action to protect public health.
While vaping in general has grown in popularity, what age groups have seen the most significant increase? Let’s take a look at what the statistics say.
In the UK, the use of vapes has shot up, with the number of individuals who consider themselves regular vapers increasing from around 800,000 in 2012 all the way up to 4.3 million in 2023. As a percentage of the total population of England, Wales and Scotland, that works out as an increase from 1.7% to 8.3% of the total.
The most significant increase has been among young users (18 to 24 year olds); while this age group was initially one of the smallest demographics, counting for just 5% of the market, in 2022 they were the biggest consumers, coming in at 11%.
More concerning perhaps is the use of vapes by younger individuals (11 to 17 year olds). While it is illegal to sell vape products to this age group, use among this group has increased from 4% in 2020 up to 2022 in 7% in 2022. While this is obviously not to be desired, data is also showing that smoking among this age group is declining, which will have a number of health benefits.
Smokers vs never smokers
While the number of overall vapers in the UK has massively increased in recent years, the vast majority of vapers are still either current or ex smokers. Roughly 2.4 million of the 4.3 million current vapers are ex smokers, 1.5 million still smoke, while around just 8.1% (350,000) are never smokers.
While the percentage of vapers who are never smokers has increased over the years, from a low point of 1.8% in 2015 to a high of 8.1% today, these statistics show that the vast majority of current vapers are using a tool to either stop smoking or to decrease their dependence on cigarettes as a primary source of nicotine. The percentage of vapers who are ex-smokers has increased from just 28% in 2013, to 57% in 2022.
Given the multiple health benefits of vaping as compared to smoking, this is absolutely something to be celebrated - it will hopefully lead to a healthier population, with decreased risk of a wide range of diseases.
Health effects of vaping vs smoking
While a lot of organisations and people have long touted vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, what does the science actually say? Let’s take a quick look.
Vaping is healthier
Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H, a leader of research at the John Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, states that while the research is still in its early days, “there’s almost no doubt that vaping exposes you to fewer toxic chemicals than smoking traditional cigarettes.”
This is not surprising, considering that normal tobacco cigarettes contain around 7,000 chemicals in them, most of which are highly toxic and increase our risks of a wide range of different health issues, from heart disease and Alzheimer's to a wide range of different cancers.
This isn’t to say that vaping is necessarily healthy - it is still likely healthier to not vape at all than it is to vape. However, if you are going to ingest a source of nicotine, it is far healthier to consume it from a vape than it is to consume it via regular tobacco.
For example, one of the most famous vaping news stories was a number of deaths arising from vaping-related lung injuries that lead to 64 people losing their lives in the US; while this is undoubtedly a tragedy, it is a tiny number when compared to the roughly 480,000 deaths resulting from smoking each year in the USA.
Why is vaping healthier?
Simply put, vaping exposes you to far fewer toxins and carcinogens when compared to smoking. As you inhale vapour rather than smoke, you instantly massively lower your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and throat cancer, along with hundreds of other diseases.
That being said, vaping isn’t healthy in and of itself - it’s just healthier than the main alternative. The majority of vapes still contain nicotine, the most addictive ingredient in cigarettes and vapes, and as a result, it’s still not recommended for children, young adults, or women who are pregnant. While nicotine isn’t a particularly healthy chemical to consume, it is thought to be especially harmful to those with developing brains.
Public perception of risk
A poll carried out by YouGov on behalf of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that a very significant 32% of current smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is either as harmful or more harmful when compared to smoking cigarettes. This shows that there is a gap between the public’s perception of the risks associated with vaping and the actual, medically proven risks.
It is absolutely in the public interest to break this gap down - the most effective way of achieving this will likely be by a series of educational campaigns, and the increased ease of accessibility to collections of statistics and data such as this article.
Is vaping a useful tool to quit smoking?
There is a wide range of different therapies available to help people stop smoking, from nicotine chewing gum and patches to vapes and inhalers. While a lot of websites and news providers have publicly questioned how effective vaping can be as a tool to quit smoking, the available evidence suggests that it is highly effective.
A collection of studies carried out in England between 2020 and 2021 showed that programs designed to help people stop smoking that included a vaping product were also the programs with the highest level of success - a success rate of 64% as compared to 58.6% with programs that did not include a vaping product.
This, along with other data, suggests that despite popular opinion and a collection of articles that suggest otherwise, vaping is in fact a highly effective tool when it comes to the cessation of smoking. If your core goal of starting vaping is to stop smoking, it will likely be most effective to use vaping products as part of a comprehensive quitting strategy, along with other emotional and physical strategies.
Other health concerns
While there are a lot of rumours surrounding the detrimental health effects of vaping, a lot of them are just that - rumours - and it’s important to get down to the hard facts. Let’s take a look at some of those.
One of the most commonly cited negative health effects associated with vaping is popcorn lung - for a while, it was all you’d hear about if you even mentioned e-cigarettes. However, the association between vaping and this rare lung condition has been proven to be unsubstantiated.
Popcorn lung, officially known as bronchiolitis obliterans, is an incredibly rare form of lung disease that consists of a significant build-up of scar tissue. It’s called popcorn lung because it was first identified in a popcorn factory, where it was thought that the inhalation of the chemical diacetyl was leading to this devastating lung disorder. The link between diacetyl and popcorn lung was never actually proven, however, the name stuck.
What’s a popcorn factory got to do with vaping? Well, in 2016, a single study carried out in the US identified diacetyl in 39 out of the 51 e-liquids that were tested. They made the link between that chemical and popcorn lung, however again, that link was never proven.
As a result of the study, laws were passed that banned diacetyl from use in e-liquids, placing restrictions on its use in the UK and EU. As a result, even if there is a link between diacetyl and popcorn lung, you should never be exposed to the chemical if you purchase your vape from a reputable source. At the time of writing, there has still never been a confirmed case of popcorn lung arising as a result of vaping.
It is likely myths like these that contribute to the fact that such a high percentage of people, both smokers and non-smokers, incorrectly believe that cigarettes are healthier than vaping.
In addition to popcorn lung, many individuals will be at least informally aware of concerns surrounding lung injuries and vaping. This concern peaked around 2019, when the outbreak of vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the United States became a notable public health concern.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that emergency department (ED) visits related to vaping use, in general, saw a large increase in August 2019, peaking in September of the same year, with a total of 2,807 hospitalised EVALI cases or deaths reported from all 50 states, DC (the District of Columbia), and the two U.S. territories (the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). Sixty-eight deaths had been confirmed, occurring in 29 states and the District of Columbia over that time period.
Fortunately, the latest combination of both national and state data shows that visits to emergency departments related to vaping are continuing to decline. This decline is most probably a result of the increased public awareness of the risk associated with THC-containing vape use, the removal of vitamin E acetate from some products, and law enforcement actions related to uncontrolled, illicit vaping products.
The procuration of vaping products from informal sources like friends or unofficial online dealers is also closely linked to most EVALI cases and played a significant role in the outbreak. This shows close similarities to health related issues during the prohibition era in America - if there’s one lesson we can learn from both cases, it’s that the best way to ensure the safe use of potentially dangerous products is through close regulation and increased access to safe sources.
What is Vitamin E acetate?
What is the ingredient causing these health issues, and is it actually proven to be the cause? Vitamin E acetate, an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products, has been identified as strongly linked to the EVALI outbreak according to laboratory data. The FDA and state laboratories found Vitamin E acetate in product samples, and the CDC found it in patient lung fluid samples from various states. However, other chemicals, including those in THC or non-THC products, may also contribute to some EVALI cases.
A recent study analysed samples from 51 EVALI cases and 99 comparison individuals without EVALI. Vitamin E acetate was identified in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples from 48 EVALI patients but not in the comparison group. Coconut oil and limonene were found in BAL fluid samples from one EVALI patient, but no other toxicants were identified in either group.
What does this mean for users?
The CDC recommends that individuals avoid using e-cigarettes from informal sources - it’s only safe to buy these kinds of products from safe, reputable stores. Vitamin E acetate should not be added to any e-liquids, and individuals should not add any other substances not intended by the manufacturer. While some ingredients can be safe for consumption when applied to the skin or even when ingested, the effects of inhalation can be very different.
While this may seem like common sense to some, it’s still important to mention, as the number of people suffering unexpected reactions means that there are likely still a number of uncontrolled products available on the marketplace.
While vaping has become more and more popular on a global scale, there is obviously a wide range of differences between different regions. We’ve had a look at the UK in some detail already, now let’s explore some other regional differences.
The United States represent the single biggest market for vaping products, so let's start there. With a total regular vaping population of 9 million, it’s by far the country with the largest number of regular vape users, followed by the UK at 3 million and France at 2.4 million.
Unit sales per month steadily rose from 5.7 million in early 2017 to 22 million in mid 2019, before dropping off again. Since then, they rose to 22.4 million in 2021, and despite regulatory concerns, have continued to rise. People in the US clearly enjoy vaping, and it’s catching on with an increasingly broad market.
While prefilled cartridges for devices like Juuls were originally the most popular, after the federal flavour ban came in (more on that later), trends started to switch. Since early 2020, single-use disposable devices like those sold by Puff Bar and Mojo have become more and more popular among a wide range of users, with total unit sales per month rising from around 1 million in early 2017 to over 7 million in 2021.
As an increasing number of single use disposable devices are introduced to the market, their popularity only seems to be increasing. However, how these trends play out remains to be seen, and will likely be influenced by any new regulations that are introduced on both a federal and state level.
A significant number of high-school-aged individuals in America vape on a regular basis, and the number is rapidly increasing. While just 11.7% of high schoolers reported vaping in 2017, by 2019, that number had risen to a whopping 27.5%. While it decreased to 19.6% in 2020, that was likely a result of decreased social interaction due to the series of Covid19 lockdowns.
As single use disposable vapes are not subject to the same flavour bans that were faced by Juul, younger users still have access to alternative flavours, likely leading to a renewed interest in vaping among the demographic.
US specific regulations
America has a long history of regulating tobacco-related products, and in some ways, this trend has continued to apply to the vaping market. In 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of flavoured cartridges for products like Juul and Vuse. Tobacco and menthol-flavoured cartridges can still be sold, however.
After vaping received significant national attention, in December 2019, further federal laws were passed that raised the minimum age of sale of e-cigarettes (along with all other tobacco products) to 21 years. This is likely part of the reason behind the drop in usage of vaping products among younger users, although that drop is now reversing.
The EU is a large area, with a population of over 400 million. As a result, it’s to be expected that there will be a lot of variation when it comes to both smoking and vaping trends across the region.
Across the whole area, there are around 82 million smokers, and smoking contributes to an additional 656,000 deaths annually, costing health systems around €115 billion each year. As a result, there is clearly a massive incentive to reduce that number by any means possible, particularly through vaping.
The countries in the EU that smoke the most are Bulgaria, with 28.2% of the population smoking, followed by Greece at 27.2% and Hungary at 25.8%. The countries that have the least smokers are Sweden, at just 9.3% of the total population, Iceland at 11.2%, and Finland at 12.5%. The countries with the lowest levels of smoking (such as Sweden) also tend to be those that have strict laws decreasing access to smoking areas - in Sweden for example, it’s been illegal to smoke in public spaces and outdoor seating areas in bars since 2019.
Demand for e-cigarettes is clearly present as well; there are around 1,600 vaping production businesses in just 11 of the countries in the EU, with 600 companies involved in the import and distribution side of things. There are around 12,000 shops that specialise in vaping products, but e-cigarettes and similar products can be purchased in a massive 150,000 shops.
The online market for e-cigarettes is also growing; while it currently only accounts for 10% of the total market in Germany, it benefits from a significant 40% share of the markets in Ireland and the Netherlands.
When it comes to vaping in the EU, France has the highest share at 6.6% of the population, followed by Poland at 6% and the Netherlands at 5.9%. Spain has the lowest share, at just 1%. With so many more people smoking than vaping, it’s highly likely that at least a significant portion of that market will turn over to e-cigarettes over the coming years.
For those looking for hard data on how effective vaping can be as a means of stopping smoking, Europe as a general region can be a very useful case study. In one European survey, it was found that 81% of vape users who had previously smoked cigarettes managed to totally give up smoking as a result - in terms of harm reduction, this is absolutely massive.
What flavours do Europeans like?
While there are many different brands of tobacco, smoking cigarettes typically provides a very similar experience - most cigarettes taste very similar. One of the nice things about vaping is that you can find e-liquids in almost any flavour imaginable.
That same survey quoted above found that 40% of Europeans liked to enjoy fruit-flavoured vapes, while 25% liked a variety of other sweet flavours. A still very significant 35% of vapers chose tobacco-flavoured liquids, most likely to try to reproduce a similar effect to that they experienced while smoking.
When asked what they would do if sweet vape flavours were banned, 20% said that they would go over to tobacco flavours, and a massive 31% said that they would still look for other vape flavours on the black market and online. A further 9% of respondents stated that they would start smoking once more, highlighting the importance of maintaining access to a wide range of flavours.
What about the legality of vaping? Vaping is currently legal in the UK, largely due to the fact that it’s widely recognised as a less harmful alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. That being said, they’re still subject to a range of regulatory controls that aim to prohibit their use among younger individuals who are at higher risk of the negative effects associated with substances such as nicotine.
The UK government has been supportive of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, and vaping is allowed in most public places in the UK. However, there are still some regulations surrounding vaping in the country.
As vaping grew started to rapidly grow in popularity, the government introduced a wide range of regulations on e-cigarettes in 2016, known as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR).
These regulations essentially brought e-cigarettes under the same regulatory regime as traditional tobacco products; the regulations require manufacturers to submit detailed information about their products to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to be approved before sale to the public.
Legal limit to vape sizes
There has recently been a significant amount of attention paid to the sale of vaping products that contain unregulated amounts of vape juice. These issues arose in part because the TRPR introduced limits on the size of e-cigarette tanks and bottles of e-liquid, while also restricting the strength of nicotine in e-liquids to a maximum of 20mg/ml.
Additionally, the regulations cover similar restrictions to those faced by normal tobacco products, such as requiring all e-cigarette products to carry warning labels and prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under the age of 18.
Despite the regulations, there are still concerns about the safety and long-term effects of vaping. In recent years, there have been reports of illnesses and deaths in the United States linked to vaping, although these are almost always reported in connection to the use of illicit, black-market products containing unregulated and often highly dangerous.
In response to these concerns, the UK government has launched several initiatives to improve the safety of vaping products. The MHRA regularly reviews e-cigarette products to ensure they are safe for use as a smoking cessation aid, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines for healthcare professionals on the use of e-cigarettes as a tool for quitting smoking.
There have been ongoing calls for more research into the long-term effects of vaping. While it’s widely accepted that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes, there is still a lack of information on the potential health risks of long-term vaping - the results of these studies will be made available in years to come, and it’s important to stay up to date with what they uncover.
Reasons behind growth in popularity
While we’ve gone through a lot of data, it’s important to also understand the reasons behind those statistics. Let’s take a quick look at some of the top reasons why people vape.
One of the most significant reasons why people take up vaping is to stop smoking, with 57% of respondents in one poll saying that as smokers, they’d chosen vaping over the other alternatives as their preferred nicotine replacement therapy.
This makes sense, seeing as vaping is dramatically less dangerous from a health perspective - one government estimate puts considers vaping to be a 95% harm reduction over conventional smoking.
A significant proportion of the population in the UK (a massive 89% in fact) still incorrectly believes that nicotine constitutes one of the significant risks associated with either smoking or vaping. While nicotine can have negative effects on the brain and body (primarily in young individuals and pregnant people), it’s definitely not one of the worse constituent ingredients of cigarettes. In fact, some studies have even shown that there are positive effects associated with nicotine, some quite similar to caffeine.
The number of people with incorrect beliefs about nicotine is likely to be even higher among non-smokers, and is a significant barrier to decreasing the population of smokers. Hopefully, increased access to educational material, along with public health campaigns, will help to slowly shift this perception towards one that more accurately represents the scientific facts.
Smoking is an incredibly expensive habit to pick up, especially with prices as high as they are currently. If you smoke a pack each day, spending an average of around £12 per pack, you stand to spend roughly £4380 a year.
With the current cost of living crisis, a lot of people are switching over to vaping as a much more affordable alternative. Popular disposable vapes such as elf bars cost around £4, containing roughly the same amount of nicotine as a 20-pack of traditional cigarettes. That works out to an annual saving of around £2920, along with the significant health benefits.
Current market worth and future predictions
The vaping market is expanding at an incredibly rapid rate. Valued at $22.45 billion in 2022, the global market is predicted to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 30.6% from now until 2030, growing all the way to $182.84 billion by the end of that time frame.
According to most studies, the USA is still by far the biggest player in the global market, making up 44.10% of global revenue.
Encouragers of growth
There are a number of reasons that suggest we’ll see significant growth in the market over the coming years.
First, the health benefits of smoking. It’s already one of the most popular methods used by smokers around the world to quit, and that’s with multiple negative myths about the health effects.
As an increasing portion of the population comes to understand just how much better it is for you in multiple ways than traditional tobacco products, we can expect more and more people to transition globally to e-cigarettes.
The younger generation loves to vape
Whether you judge it to be a good thing or a bad thing, the simple truth is that the younger generation massively prefers vaping over smoking. As this age group grows up, we can expect to see this trend become more and more entrenched, further cementing vaping as the preferred method of nicotine consumption.
Increased regulatory crackdowns on cigarettes
Another factor that may influence future growth in the vaping market is the steady increase of regulatory crackdowns on the tobacco industry. From China to New Zealand, governments around the world are laying the path for a tobacco-free future.
These are nothing new; most governments have been introducing increasingly stringent regulations from as early back as the 90s. That being said, acts such as New Zealand’s complete ban on tobacco sales for future generations represent taking things to the next level. If vapes can escape the same level of regulation, at least in the medium term, it’s likely that they’ll be set to take the place of conventional cigarettes.
Detractors from growth
While there are a number of factors that could lead to growth in the market, there are also some factors that could threaten its future. Let’s take a look at some things that could lead to a decline in the popularity of vaping in the years to come.
Concerns over youth use
One scandal that has rocked the market somewhat is the prevalence of vaping among younger users, particularly in the US. One survey in 2022 found that a massive 27.6% of young users were using vaping products each day - potentially higher than all other demographics.
This has led to an escalation to the stage where policymakers are considering taxing e-cigarettes at the same rate as cigarettes, along with other incoming regulatory crackdowns that would massively rock the market. A lot of weight has been placed on vape producers to decrease vape use among these demographics, by marketing them in a different manner.
The success of these initiatives remains to be seen - while these regulatory changes will likely first be seen in America, as a market leader, the ripple effect will most probably extend across the world.
Results of long-term studies
Most studies have shown that the short and medium-term effects of vaping are far less damaging to your health when compared to smoking; this was largely confirmed in a recent meta analysis of 400 different studies.
However, vaping hasn’t been around for long enough for studies to have been carried out that confirm the long-term effects. While it’s possible that they will be less severe than smoking, it’s difficult to state with a high level of accuracy whether or not this will actually be the case.
While it is relatively unlikely, if studies come out that confirm negative long term effects, the vaping market will likely suffer significantly. It will no longer be able to market itself as a healthy alternative to smoking, and as a result, will likely lose a lot of regular users.
Clearly, there’s a lot to think about based on the data contained in this article. The vaping market is relatively young, but there’s already an extensive amount of information on emerging trends and future predictions.
Obviously, the way things go remains to be seen - it’s likely that people will continue to catch onto the benefits of e-cigarettes over traditional tobacco products, taking a bigger and bigger percentage of the market. Trends can change seemingly unexpectedly, however, so it’s important that you stay up to date with the latest information on the topic, to make sure that nothing passes you by.