On 3 February 2021, the long-awaited Eurobarometer report was published. Titled “Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes,” the survey examined European citizen’s relationship with tobacco and related products. Fieldwork was conducted between August 2020 and September 2020 and involved interviews with 28,228 people from 27 EU member states and the UK. Data from the previous Eurobarometer report in 2017 is also made available for comparison. It is an extensive report, 334 pages long, with separate factsheets available for each member state plus the UK. A 54-page summary of the main points is also available. The importance of the Eurobarometer cannot be overstated as it will feed into the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) review due latest 20 May.
Since Eurobarometer 2017 smoking prevalence has declined by 3%, from 26% to 23%. Countries with the lowest smoking prevalence are Sweden (7%), the UK and the Netherlands (12%). [Belgium smoking prevalence is 21%] Smoking prevalence is highest in Greece (42%). Over half (54%) of current and former smokers began smoking before the age of 18.
It comes as no surprise that Sweden has almost reached smoke free status of <5% smoking prevalence; widespread substitution of cigarettes with snus has seen to that. The UK is a success story too, having experienced the sharpest decline in smoking rates since 2006. A large part of this success must be attributed to the UK having public health agencies which support and promote tobacco harm reduction (THR). The value of pointing smokers to safer nicotine product to help with cessation attempts cannot be underestimated.
Despite the well-known risks of smoking only slightly more than half of current smokers (53%) said they had attempted to quit at some point. The majority (76%) of those who did make a quit attempt did so unaided. For those who sought assistance, 13% used nicotine replacement therapy and other medications, 11% used vapour products. A meagre 6% of smokers sought assistance through medical support and smoking cessation services.
But does vaping really help with smoking cessation? According to the report the answer is yes. 31% of those who successfully quit smoking said they used vapour or similar products; a huge increase from 14% in the previous Eurobarometer report. A further 27% said they had reduced their use of combustible tobacco products. There is scope for further gains in this area as only 2% of respondents said they were current vapers.
The main reasons for people starting to vape won’t come as a shock either. Stopping or reducing tobacco consumption was cited as the main reason by 57% of respondents, 37% said it was because vaping was less harmful than smoking (congratulations to those well-informed individuals), and 23% cited lower cost as the reason.
Sources / datas :
- Attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes (Eurobarometer/UE)
- Factsheet for Belgium (Eurobarometer/UE)
European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates promotes discussion and the exchange of information and potential actions to reduce exposure to tobacco-related harm. ETHRA complements existing organisations by offering European advocates a platform for exchanging information (particularly at European policy level) and for sharing experiences and local initiatives, in support of tobacco harm reduction.
We define “advocates” as any person or organisation that recognises the need to involve consumers in the processes that affect them. We define “tobacco harm reduction” as effective public health strategies which provide public access to accurate information about reduced-risk products; where pleasure for the end user is recognised as an essential element in the deployment of this strategy; and which support non-discriminatory adult access, including by cost, to products.