Youth Vaping And Smoking: How Are The Mainstream Media Wrong?

Youth Vaping And Smoking: How Are The Mainstream Media Wrong?
Two separate studies have been released by the NHS and ASH (Action On Smoking & Health) exposing smoking and e-cigarette use in the UK, with both reports providing a dedicated section on youth uptake.

It’s worth mentioning that the US figures for vaping within minors, whilst very much dramatically embellished by news outlets, is higher than the UK which is probably why more scare mongering articles are of prominence in the US. Having said this, since these reports have come out, the lack of mainstream British media covering the issue has been all too unsurprising and symbolic of their stance against vaping.

We break down the key evidence in these reports whilst highlighting the media’s obsession in tarnishing vaping, as evidenced by Emily Sheffield’s wildly inaccurate and under-researched recent Evening Standard article, and why the press need to start scrutinising smoking more heavily instead.


ASH (Action On Smoking & Health)

Let’s start with the recent report from ASH, a public health charity that specifically combats the harm caused by tobacco through research and campaigning. Their report which was released in June 2019, focused on the use of e-cigarettes amongst young people in Britain and made for some interesting reading.


Some of the key findings were:

  • More than three quarters of 11-18 year olds have never tried (76.9%) or are unaware of e-cigarettes (6.6%).
  • Young people vape mainly just to give it a try (52.4%) not because they think it looks cool (1.0%).
  • In 2019 15.4% of 11-18 year olds had tried vaping, compared to 16.0% in 2018.
  • In 2019, 1.6% of 11-18 year olds used e-cigarettes more than once a week (1.7% in 2018).
  • Vaping is much less common among young people who have never smoked. A large majority of never smokers aged 11-18, 93.8% in total, have either never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are unaware of them (6.0%). Of young people aged 11-18 years old who have never smoked, 5.5% have ever tried e-cigarettes, 0.8% are current vapers, only 0.1% vape more than once a week, and not a single never-smoker reported vaping daily.

Not only does this evidence show a consistent decrease in the uptake of youth vaping from last year, it also reveals that persistent use of vaping in teens is nothing more than a myth, highlighted by the fact not a single never-smoker who’ve tried e-cigarettes vape daily. You can read the full report here.



The NHS Statistics On Smoking 2019 report, focuses on a wide variety of data concerning smoking habits across the UK, with a dedicated section concentrating on smoking patterns among young people (conducted in 2016). The bulk of their findings centred on tobacco smoking within secondary school pupils and the influences surrounding, yet also on e-cigarette use.


Here are some of the key findings:

  • In 2016, 19% of pupils (aged 11-15) reported they had tried smoking at least once, similar to 2014. There has previously been a steady decline since 1996.
  • 6% of pupils were current smokers, and 3% were regular smokers (smoked more than one cigarette per week).
  • 62% of pupils reported being exposed to second-hand smoke in the home or in a car.
  • 7% of pupils who lived with three or more smokers were regular smokers themselves.
  • Of the 3% of the pupil population who are regular smokers, 60% of those reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to not smoke for a week, while 74% reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to give up smoking altogether.
  • A quarter of pupils (25%) reported they had ever used e-cigarettes, with 2% of all pupils stating they were regular e-cigarette users.


The fact that smoking in school pupils has been declining for two decades is promising, yet it still holds a noticeable uptake compared to e-cigarettes. The statistics signifying pupils being exposed to secondhand smoke is also of concern, with the more smokers in the household proving the likelihood that the pupil will start smoking. This again highlights smoking’s influence on young people as well as the majority of regular smokers finding it difficult to stop. A full overview of the report can be found here.


What This Means?

All this statistical analysis makes for compelling reading, once again highlighting that vaping isn’t overtly targeting the youth despite the media’s view that the ‘child-like’ flavours entice minors as well as the apparent ease of purchasing a vape device from vendors both physically and online. The fact that the press demonises the products instead of the irresponsible retailing of the few vendors who allow this, shows where the problem lies, especially as the vast majority of retailers, like ourselves, have a strict age verification process to combat this.

The influence behind vaping, signified by only 1% of young people who had ever tried vaping because it looks cool, clearly shows that the marketing behind vaping doesn’t correlate with the media’s generalised assessment.

Smoking on the other hand, despite decreasing steadily over a 20 year period, still has its problems within youth uptake despite the government’s efforts to regulate the sale and distribution, as it has done for vaping. These stats also clearly show the more exposure to smoking you have at home, the increased likelihood of becoming regular smokers, echoing the sentiment if around cigarettes on a regular basis, the tendency to emulate is heightened.

For more information, visit our website or please don’t hesitate to contact us regarding any queries surrounding vaping among young people or vaping in general.

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