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E-Cigarettes and the act of Vaping has been around for quite a while now, well, over a decade to be precise. And more people than ever are now opting to use E-Cigarettes as their preferred method to get their Nicotine fix, especially if they have quit smoking and are still getting cravings for Nicotine so needing to use some form of Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
And in a recent study where the report of it was released recently, it showed that the global amount of vapers is sitting at an estimated 82 million people worldwide, which is really good to see, but there still remains over 1 billion smokers in the world as well.
In this article, I’m going to take a look at volumes of vapers within each continent of the world, how the numbers are still high despite there being severe regulations on vaping in some countries, and what more could be done to help bring this number of vapers up even more than it is, and in turn bringing down the number of smokers as well.
Let’s Talk About Nicotine
If you’re a smoker, or a vaper chances are you know all about Nicotine, but we’re still going to have a look at this in detail within the block of the article.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, and it’s what people become dependant or ‘hooked’ on from smoking cigarettes. This is because Nicotine is one of the prominent chemicals found within combustible tobacco, and ingesting a relatively small amount can lead to an addiction forming and this addiction can be one hard thing to overcome, but it’s doable!
Contrary to popular belief, Nicotine is NOT one of the toxic nor harmful chemicals that are found in combustible tobacco products or the smoke that is emitted from them when lit. Nicotine is not one of the cancer causing chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke, and there hasn’t been any recorded deaths with “Nicotine Consumption” listed as the cause.
Nicotine is also classed as a drug, and it’s one of the most popular drugs that people consume worldwide alongside alcohol and caffeine. The common denominator with these three drugs? All are perfectly legal and available to buy from any major retail outlet. It’s that popular it’s consumed in some way shape or form by 22% of the adult population worldwide.
These ways include cigarettes, pipes, cigars, oral products such as Snus pouches and Nicotine Pouches and more recently, non-combustible Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) such as heat-not-burn tobacco products and most notably Electronic Cigarettes. And it probably comes as no surprise that most people consume Nicotine in the form of smoking cigarettes which according to WHO accounted for 93% of the global nicotine market sales in 2021, astounding.
Global Smoking Prevalence Is Still A Problem
Continuing on the topic of smoking, and I’m now going to have a look into the global smoking prevalence and the problems that surround it and how it’s having an impact on society. As well as taking a look at some countries that have a relatively low smoking rate amongst adults and just how they’ve achieved this.
World Health Organisation estimates that there are close to 1 billion smokers worldwide, well, 984 million to be precise if we’re splitting hairs, and if you know your worldwide population statistics, you’ll know that this equates to 1/5th of the global population being smokers. This is really crazy to think of when put in a ratio amount, that such a huge chunk of our population are smokers.
And with such a high volume of smokers globally, it should come as no surprise really that the mortality rate is a pretty high number as well. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths every single year globally, and shockingly it claims the lives of over 8 million people every single year. That’s just shy of 10% of total smokers around the world will die through smoking.
This is three times the amount who die from other serious diseases such as HIV, Malaria and TB and FOURTEEN TIMES higher than what the estimated number of deaths worldwide through the use of illicit drugs. This is why smoking remains the leading cause of avoidable deaths every year and something needs to be done about it, which is where Tobacco Harm Reduction comes into play…
Tobacco Harm Reduction
Tobacco harm reduction is a public health approach that aims to minimize the negative health consequences associated with tobacco use by providing alternative, less harmful options for individuals who are unable or unwilling to quit tobacco entirely. It involves strategies such as encouraging the use of alternative nicotine products like electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or nicotine replacement therapies, as a means of reducing the harms associated with combustible tobacco use, such as smoking cigarettes.
Tobacco harm reduction recognizes that while quitting tobacco use is the best option, not all individuals are able or willing to quit, and that reducing the harm associated with tobacco use can still have a positive impact on public health by reducing the risks associated with smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.
Many countries have welcomed Tobacco Harm Reduction opportunities with open arms and heavily promote the use of these things to the patrons of the country. Take Sweden for example, a recent survey came out to public view which revealed that they were on course to become the first country to achieve “Smoke Free” status, with it expected to be achieved before the end of this year (2023)
Smoke Free status means that 5% or less of the countries adult population would be classed as active smokers. This is an objective set out by the European Union for every country to reach by the year 2040, so the fact that Sweden is going to hit it SEVENTEEN years earlier than the projected date is just incredible and something that deserves all the praise and applaud possible. But how have they done this? By promoting a Tobacco Harm Reduction method!
Snus is hugely popular and promoted heavily in Sweden, which is it’s country of origin. Snus is small white pouches filled with a moist tobacco mixture that is placed in the mouth between the upper gum and lip and the nicotine from within the tobacco is then absorbed through the gum and into the body. Making this a smokeless oral tobacco product, and the key to success for Sweden’s smoking rates decreasing so much.
It was in the mid 2000s that the first trend of Snus use rising and smoking prevalence decreasing amongst adults in Sweden was seen and it was from then that it continued in the right direction, with it ultimately near enough reaching the magic 5% mark. But Snus isn’t available in any other countries within the European Union, as well as the UK as it has been banned from sale since the early 1990s after aggressive marketing techniques and concerns for health were raised and this was enough for the powers that be to step in and make the ban happen and hasn’t been considered for review to change since.
So what other Tobacco Harm Reduction options are being promoted and suggested to help people quit smoking you might ask? Well…it’s pretty obvious really!
E-Cigarettes Are Proving To Be An Effective Tobacco Harm Reduction Method
Of course, it’s E-Cigarettes we’re talking about! And this is where we come on to the topic in question of this article, and take a look at the amount of Vapers there are around the globe currently. As mentioned, this number is now reported by WHO to be an estimated 82 million people world wide are now classed as vapers, and there’s a strong likelihood the majority of these are ex-smokers who have made the switch to a THR option, with E-Cigarettes being the most preferred choice.
Looking at the facts and figures published by WHO over the regional usage of E-Cigarettes as of 2021;
- 9.2 million in the Eastern Mediterranean region;
- 5.6 million in the African region;
- 20.1 million in the European region;
- 16.8 million in the Americas;
- 16.0 million in the Western Pacific region;
- and 14.3 million in South-East Asia
It comes as no surprise to me that Europe has the highest users of E-Cigarettes in the world there, and I think the UK plays a large part in this. Last year it was revealed that the smoking prevalence in the UK amongst adults had hit the lowest it’s ever been and to go hand in hand, the amount of vapers in the country had also reached numbers never before seen so it’s obviously going in the right direction!
This is largely down to the fact that Vaping is so heavily backed and promoted by Public Health here in the UK, with Public Health England making the claim that vaping is 95% safer than smoking back in 2016, and this statement was reaffirmed in the most comprehensive study about E-Cigarettes conducted by Cochrane and commissioned by Public Health England in 2022.
GPs and Stop Smoking services are also beginning to recommend the use of E-Cigarettes to patients they see who are wanting to quit smoking, and within the last couple of weeks the Government announced a world first “Swap to Stop” scheme promising 1 million smokers in the UK a voucher to exchange at their local vape shops for a vaping starter kit to help them quit smoking for good. This is so good to see, and it fills me with confidence seeing the Government as well as healthcare professionals getting so involved with Vaping like they currently are.
Unfortunately, it isn’t like this around the globe and many countries don’t have the same confidence nor do they back Vaping like what it is here in the UK. In fact, Vaping is actually banned in multiple different countries and has strict and stringent regulations put on it in many other countries across the globe as well. But why is this? Let’s delve into this in more depth.
Why Vaping Isn’t Backed As Much In Other Countries
Using the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction as reference here, they state that 36 different countries have banned Vaping completely, whilst 74 countries have regulations of some kind relating to Vaping in place and 84 countries have no regulation whatsoever in place regarding Vaping. It really fascinates me how it’s so different from country to country, and when I say different, I’m talking from one extreme to the other which I’ll explain below.
Countries Where Vaping is Banned Completely
I won’t list all 34 countries but I’ll pick out a few notable countries to discuss here. Looking at the list, it’s primarily countries in Africa that have the bans in place, as well as countries in Asia also.
Australia is a bit of a funny one as vaping isn’t banned as such, but it might as well be with what’s going on over there. You’re unable to get vape juice that contains Nicotine unless you have a valid prescription issued to you by a GP.
I’ve covered this in a separate article which you can check out, but the system is not working in Australia and they are seeing a huge rise in black market sales of Nicotine vapes with many doctors not even being able to prescribe the nicotine e-liquid to patients who are wanting it. It’s a pretty messy situation.
Vaping is not supported in South America either it appears as it’s banned in Argentina, Brazil & Mexico as well as other countries within the region. It’s unknown as to why it’s not supported but with 21.4% of Argentina’s population and 12.4% of Brazil’s population being smokers, maybe it could be time for a change?
Crossing into Asia and notably large countries where Vaping is banned include Singapore, Thailand and Japan. It’s quite a well known fact that Vaping is banned in Singapore and Thailand as the punishment if caught vaping is insane, with the possibility of a long stretch inside of a Thai prison looming over anyone caught vaping in the country is enough to put anyone off.
Japan is similar to Australia that nicotine containing E-Liquid is only available with a prescription, but alternatives to smoking such as Heated tobacco products are massively popular and promoted in the country, so it’s not all doom and gloom for Japan.
Countries Where Vaping Is Regulated For Good Reasons and Bad Reasons
Speaking of doom and gloom, let’s have a look at the countries where vaping is regulated. These have varying different levels of regulations with some more strict than others.
First one we come on to would obviously be the United Kingdom. Our regulations for E-Cigarettes and Vaping were imposed in 2016 under the Tobacco Products Directive. This caused a bit of a shockwave through the vaping world by tanks being limited to 2ml in size, the maximum nicotine content in e-liquid was to be set at 20mg and only bottles of E-Liquid that contained Nicotine were allowed to be the maximum size of 10ml.
Of course, loopholes were found and still used to do this day, with tanks being able to be extended with bigger glasses, bungs being removed from pods and shortfill e-liquid being sold where people can add their own nicotine shots to it to get bigger bottles of Nicotine containing e-liquid. I agree with regulations being put in place as it was for the greater good, and this hasn’t really affected the Vaping industry here in the UK too much.
But now I’m going to look at where regulations on vaping CAN heavily affect vapers as well as the industry quite drastically.
Netherlands have been back and forth over the last few years with the threat of a ban of all flavoured E-Liquid other than tobacco happening and it’s finally on course to come into effect as of July 2023. Certain states in America have also imposed this ruling as well, and it’s harming Vapers who rely on flavoured E-Liquid to keep them away from smoking cigarettes as they lean heavily on flavoured E-Liquid that has Nicotine in to stop them from relapsing.
Regulating flavoured E-Liquid to me is a bit mindless as it does more harm than good, something I’ve spoken about in other articles I’ve written on the site. And people when asked have said that they will either revert to black market tactics to get their E-Liquid flavours or simply just switch back to smoking which is so counter productive it’s unreal.
Support For Vaping Still Not Enough
Whilst many governing bodies do indeed back Vaping within their country, there’s still a void to be filled with the global support of Vaping by some organisations which in turn may turn other countries head’s to be a bit more forthcoming with support and potentially changing their stance on things for Vapers to get the support as well as smokers wanting to turn to vaping to quit their smoking.
The one specific organisation I’m talking about here would be the World Health Organisation, who have a very stiff and firm stance on the use of safer nicotine products for people to utilise to quit smoking with a severe lack of support or backing for it when compared to their support of other harm reduction avenues on things like HIV prevention. As discussed, HIV is one of the other big things responsible for deaths around the globe every year, but smoking kills three times more people every year and still nothing is done to promote harm reduction from this.
There’s been a widespread discussion as well as a level of low key fear surrounding the upcoming COP10 convention happening in Panama this November. The 182 countries that are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will meet at the Convention where discussions about safer nicotine products are expected to take place and it is likely that the position of the World Health Organization will be influential and potentially not for the greater good either.
And now we reach the conclusion of this article, and I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Being so heavily involved in the Vaping industry, as well as being a Vaper myself, it’s so good to see the global figures of current vapers being so high, and numbers that are continuing to grow with the decline in smokers also happening in sync.
It really frustrates me seeing countries being so firm and not budging on their stance surrounding Vaping, but nothing I say or do can change this, but the actions and movements of huge governing organisations like WHO may be able to do something, and I sincerely hope that the COP10 Convention isn’t as terrible as some are expecting, and a new page could be turned to ramp up Tobacco Harm Reduction awareness around the globe and the number of vapers would see an even further increase next year.