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Drop in smoker numbers actually due to rise of ‘vapes’

The recently-announced drop in the number of people who smoke is due to the rise in electronic cigarettes or “vapes”, rather than anti-smoking health measures, a new study has suggested.

This week, a report from Santé Publique France showed that one million people stopped smoking between 2016 and 2017.

Health minister Agnès Buzyn claimed that this was due to the increased availability and use of “stop smoking” products; and “neutral” packets, without any branding or colours.

Yet, a new survey from independent consultancy Odoxa-Dentsu suggests that the drop in tobacco smoking is less to do with health aids and blank packs, as the rise in use of e-cigarettes, or “vapes”.

It showed that a significant percentage of French people consider e-cigarettes to be a “stop smoking” aid, with more than two thirds of respondents believing that the use of vapes plays a major role in reducing smoking levels.

Over 80% of respondents said that rising prices for cigarettes - set to hit €10 by 2020 - is an effective means to reduce smoking, and two thirds of the general public are in favour of the price hike.

Unsurprisingly however, two thirds of people who smoke regularly are against the measure.

The report showed that 15% of people use a vape "regularly or occasionally", with 69% of them saying they mainly combine their usage of vapes with that of real tobacco.

Just under one in three (30%) said they only use vapes.

The report stated: “Vaping appears to be a far more important factor than other means of public health movements against smoking.”

Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, lung and smoking specialist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, said: “The most recent price rise [for a cigarette packet] is not the reason for this drop in the number of smokers, because it came into force before the Santé Publique France study.

He continued: “The effect of that price rise will only be shown in next year’s study. In contrast, I am convinced that vapes have played a major role [in the drop in numbers].”

In general, the report also showed that the public’s opinion is turning away from cigarettes.

Over 92% of respondents said that they believe cigarettes to be too expensive, and 79% said they considered tobacco to be a “drug”.

Almost two thirds (60%) said they did not believe cigarette smoking was “sociable” and half the population said that the practice was being “stigmatised” in society.

Yet, similar numbers (61%) conceded that tobacco could be seen as an “anti-stress” method, and a “source of pleasure”.

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