In 2017, the number of smokers in the UK reached it’s lowest point since 1974, with over a million people turning to e-cigarettes to kick the habit. Public Health England has spoken out about the fact that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, however, doubts still plague those who are unsure about the effects of vaping and whether the increase in use is a positive thing.
Ask an e-cig user what they think and you will no doubt hear the success stories, the people who have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, or who have dramatically reduced their habit. Nestled in pub beer gardens and office smoking shelters, ‘vapers’ are beginning to outnumber people smoking conventional cigarettes, but how do non-vapers feel about the e-cig revolution?
We asked a focus group of non-vapers to give us their opinions. With horror stories of exploding chargers and toxic vapours being shared across social media and a distinct lack of positive e-cigarette stories in the news, do they welcome the shift towards a vaping culture? Or are vapers facing an uphill battle when it comes to winning them round?
Vaping – Where is acceptable?
Although it’s safe to vape in the majority of outdoor places in the UK, many companies and transport providers have issued bans on the use of e-cigarettes. Airports, trains and a number of restaurant chains are zero-policy when it comes to e-cigs, however, there are certain places that still allow you to vape indoors. In places where vaping is allowed, it’s still touch and go as to whether other drinkers, diners, colleagues or bystanders will be as accepting. We ask our non-vapers whether they would be happy with someone vaping in a pub and in a restaurant.
We had no objections from our non-vapers when it came to vaping in a pub, with almost 90% of people agreeing or strongly agreeing that they wouldn’t have a problem sharing their drinking space with an e-cigarette user. It was a different story for those asked about vaping in restaurants, over half of respondents saying that they would not be happy having a meal with e-cigarettes users around.
Going back the days before the smoking ban, it was seen as socially acceptable to smoke in a pub which may explain a number of people in favour of having e-cigarettes in these surroundings. Unless a restaurant had a designated smoking area, smoking over a meal wasn’t as commonplace which could explain the overwhelming ‘NO’ from non-vapers looking to enjoy their lunch!
Safety is a big concern for non-vapers, with conflicting media reports and studies that debate whether or not vaping produces toxic emissions. In a recent air sampling to determine the health effects of second-hand vapour exposure, the California Department of Public Health confirmed that it was harmless, but how do our non-vapers feel about being exposed?
Over 60% of respondents stated that they were not worried about the effects of secondhand vapour, with 30% remaining neutral due to lack of information on the subject. When asked about safety regulations for e-cigarettes, over half of non-vapers believed that they shouldn’t be held to the same safety standards as traditional cigarettes. However, 20% of non-vapers DID agree or strongly agree that they should have the same safety regulations, which shows that there is still concerns regarding quality control of e-cigarettes and their availability.
Overall over 80% of respondents believe that vaping IS a safer option, compared to smoking traditional cigarettes. When asked whether they would prefer if their friends vaped than smoked, we saw a similar result with 83% of people either agreeing or strongly agreeing.
Why do people vape?
With the UK hitting record lows for non-smokers and over a million people using e-cigarettes, it’s fair to say that they’re proving to be an effective device for those looking to quit. But do non-vapers see e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool? 83% of non-vapers do, with 30% strongly agreeing that it was a positive aid for those looking to ditch the cigs!
When we turned the tables and asked what non-vapers would do if THEY smoked, 88% stated that they would turn to an e-cigarette to help them quit.
E-Cigarettes and the Media
When asked about how they believe the media portrays the use of e-cigarettes, the response from our non-vapers was mixed. 40% of people believe that the coverage was neutral, with many stating that the information they had been exposed to was confusing.
“Some days we’re told that e-cigarettes are harmless, the next we’re warned to keep away from the clouds, it’s hard to decide what’s real news and what’s scaremongering”
Aaron, 27 (Non-Vaper)
40% off respondents did say that they thought the media exposure was positive, citing recent studies and updates on current vaping regulations as recent examples of solid vaping information.
“We need to see more studies by reputable outlets on the effects of vaping and more about how it’s a useful tool for non-smokers, that’s what will help change people’s minds”
Claire, 24 (Non-vaper)
Overall, our survey showed that regardless of the amount of negative press, the perception of vaping held by non-vapers is positive. Although there are concerns regarding safety and places where vaping is acceptable, there’s a significant shift towards accepting vaping as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Of course, there are still some gripes when it comes to being around vapers! We asked our non-vapers what they thought was the worst thing about vaping, here’s the top results.
- Limited knowledge of long term effects
- Dangerous when driving
- Dodgy chargers
- Cloud chasers
- Friends running out of e-liquid
- The smell of synthetic fruit flavour liquids
- Walking into a cloud of vapour
- Groups of vapers showing off
- Teens using e-cigarettes
Bad news for those cloud chasers, or fans of sickly sweet liquids! However, the reasons given by non-vapers do seem to be those shared by actual vapers, if you have an e-cigarette chances are you’ve found yourself trying to source a late night shop selling e-liquid at some point on a night out!
For vapers, it’s important to educate those that are worried about what you’re vaping and why you choose to do it. This could be as small as reassuring colleagues or friends that your charger has been bought from a reputable outlet, or ensuring that you’re respectful and careful when vaping around non-vapers.