National survey suggests vaping is reducing smoking in Australia
Posted on July 16, 2020
FIGURES from the 2019 National Drug Household Strategy Survey released today suggest that vaping is playing a major role in reducing smoking rates in Australia.
The survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is conducted every 3 years. In 2019, 22,274 Australians aged 14 and over were asked about their use of legal and illegal drugs.
The number of Australians vaping has doubled since 2016. In 2019, 2.5% of Australians were currently vaping, compared to 1.2% in 2016 and there are now approximately 520,000 Australian vapers
Younger age groups are experiencing substantial falls in smoking rates. Smoking rates fell significantly from 2016-2019 in the 18-24, 25-29 and 30-39 year age groups.
This fall in smoking rates coincided with a matching rise in vaping rates in this age group. It is likely that the increased vaping is contributing to the reduction in smoking in these age groups, either by helping smokers to quit or diverting those who would have otherwise gone on to smoking
It is not possible to say this association is causal (ie that vaping is the cause of the lower smoking rates) but the available research and overseas evidence suggests it is likely to be a major factor.
Importantly, it does NOT suggest that vaping is increasing smoking as claimed by some commentators. More likely, vaping is a gateway OUT OF smoking, as suggested increasingly by the research.
It is also important to note that there was a small, non-significant DECLINE in vaping in 12-17 year olds, suggesting that the community concerns about an ‘epidemic of youth vaping’ are exaggerated.
Older smokers not quitting
It is of great concern that smoking rates in people in their 40s, 50s and 60s remained unchanged since 2016. Two in three smokers in this age range will die from a smoking-related disease. Most have tried repeatedly to quit unsuccessfully and may benefit from vaping.
Vaping rates in this population were very low in comparison. Nicotine vaping should be available for these addicted smokers. Vaping is more effective and more popular than nicotine replacement products and could help to reduce smoking in the older population as it appears to have done in the younger groups in this survey.
Comparison with other countries
The adult smoking rates in Australia is now 14.7% but is declining much more slowly than the UK and US where vaping is readily available.
Since vaping became popular in 2013-14, adult smoking rates have declined at a rate of 1% per year in the US (2013-2018) and by 0.8% per year in England (2013-2019).
In Australia, since 2013, the decline has been 0.3% per year, less than half the rate of the other countries
These findings confirm that vaping can play a vital role in reducing smoking rates. The government's plan to restrict access further to nicotine vaping will lead to increased smoking, more deaths and bigger tobacco company profits.
We ask Mr Hunt to review these data carefully before taking any further action which may have unintended and negative public health effects.
Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org