GSTHR Press Release
Tuesday 8 March 2022

82 million vapers worldwide in 2021: the new GSTHR estimate shows a significant global rise in vaping

  • The global number of vapers increases 20% from 68 million in 2020 to 82 million in 2021
  • Updated estimate made possible by the release of new data including the 2021 Eurobarometer 506 survey
  • Rapid growth in vaper numbers a big positive step in efforts to reduce the harms of combustible cigarettes and hasten the end of smoking

The latest research from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) estimates there are now 82 million vapers worldwide.

The GSTHR project, from Knowledge•Action•Change (K•A•C), a UK public health agency, reports that the new total for 2021 represents a 20% increase on the figure for 2020 (68 million) and shows the popularity of vaping is growing rapidly around the world.

Each year, there are eight million smoking-related deaths worldwide. Vaping offers a significantly safer alternative for the 1.1 billion people around the world who continue to smoke.

Indeed, as long ago as 2015, Public Health England (since renamed the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities) stated that nicotine vaping products, also known as e-cigarettes, were around 95% less harmful than smoking.[i]

Then in 2021, Public Health England revealed that nicotine vaping products had become the main tool smokers use when they want to quit combustible cigarettes in England[ii] and the gold standard Cochrane Review found nicotine vapes were more successful than other methods, including nicotine replacement therapy.[iii]

The growth in the number of vapers is therefore a hugely positive step in efforts to reduce the harms of combustible cigarettes and hasten the end of smoking.

The updated calculation was made possible by the release of a range of new data including the 2021 Eurobarometer 506 survey[iv] and is revealed in a new GSTHR Briefing Paper. The figure is based on 49 countries that have produced viable survey results on vaping prevalence.

To address the problem of missing data, the GSTHR used an established method of estimating vaper numbers in countries that currently have no information by assuming a similarity with countries in the same region and economic condition for which data points were available.

This estimate takes into account three factors - sales regulation status, WHO regions and World Bank (WB) income groups - and the Euromonitor data on vaping product market size from 2015 to 2021 was also used.

Speaking about his findings, data scientist Tomasz Jerzyński of the GSTHR said: “As well as the substantial growth in the number of vapers globally, our research shows there has been rapid uptake of nicotine vaping products in some countries in Europe and in North America. This increase is particularly significant, because in most markets, these products have been available for only a decade.”

Indeed, the rise in the number of global vapers comes despite the GSTHR’s database showing nicotine vaping products are banned in 36 countries including India, Japan, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey.[v]

The new data also shows the US is the largest market for vaping at $10.3 billion, followed by Western Europe ($6.6 billion), Asia Pacific ($4.4 billion) and Eastern Europe ($1.6 billion).

Addressing the importance of this research, Professor Gerry Stimson, Director of K•A•C and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London, said: “As this updated data from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction shows, consumers find nicotine vaping products attractive and are switching to use them in increasing numbers worldwide. This is in spite of prohibitive policies in many countries who follow the World Health Organization’s anti-scientific stance against tobacco harm reduction, thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s billions and his personal zeal for a war on nicotine.

“In order to reduce the devastating harms from smoking that lead to eight million deaths every year, governments must be pragmatic. As a tool to reduce harm, nicotine vaping products, as well as other safer nicotine products, should be accessible and affordable to people around the world who want to switch away from deadly combustible cigarettes.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Contact: For further information, please contact either Oliver Porritt at [email protected] or on +44 79 30 27 99 16 or Ruth Goldsmith at [email protected] or on +44 78 01 84 51 92

About us: Knowledge·Action·Change (K·A·C) promotes harm reduction as a key public health strategy grounded in human rights. The team has over forty years of experience of harm reduction work in drug use, HIV, smoking, sexual health, and prisons. K·A·C runs the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) which maps the development of tobacco harm reduction and the use, availability and regulatory responses to safer nicotine products, as well as smoking prevalence and related mortality, in over 200 countries and regions around the world. For all publications and live data, visit https://gsthr.org

Our funding: The GSTHR project is produced with the help of a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent, US non profit 501(c)(3) which, under US law, must operate independently of its donors. The project and its outputs are, under the terms of the grant agreement, editorially independent of the Foundation.


References

[i] Public Health England. (2015). E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review

[ii] “[…] Using a vaping product is the most popular aid used by people trying to quit smoking. In 2020, 27.2% of people used a vaping product in a quit attempt in the previous 12 months. This compares with 15.5% who used NRT over the counter or on prescription (2.7%), and 4.4% who used varenicline. […]” McNeill, A., Brose, L., Calder, R., Simonavicius, E., & Robson, D. (2021). Vaping in England: Evidence update February 2021: a report commissioned by Public Health England. Public Health England. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vaping-in-england-evidence-update-february-2021

[iii] “[...] For every 100 people using nicotine e-cigarettes to stop smoking, 9 to 14 might successfully stop, compared with only 6 of 100 people using nicotine-replacement therapy, 7 of 100 using nicotine-free e-cigarettes, or four of 100 people having no support or behavioural support only. [...]” Hartmann-Boyce J, McRobbie H, Butler AR, Lindson N, Bullen C, Begh R, Theodoulou A, Notley C, Rigotti NA, Turner T, Fanshawe TR, & Hajek P. (2021, September 14). Can electronic cigarettes help people stop smoking, and do they have any unwanted effects when used for this purpose? Cochrane. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub6

[iv] European Commission. (2021). Special Eurobarometer 506: Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes (S2240_506_ENG). European Commission. http://data.europa.eu/88u/dataset/S2240_506_ENG

[v] Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction. Which countries have banned the sale of nicotine vaping products (e-cigarettes)? https://gsthr.org/faq-smoking-and-nicotine/nicotine-vaping-products/which-countries-have-banned-the-sale-of-nicotine-vaping-products-e-cigarettes/