400,000 pregnant women among 5.1m Brits who vape everyday, poll reveals

Many people start vaping to stop smoking but they're finding it increasingly hard to put vapes down as well, ITV News correspondent Sejal Karia reports

Vapes. Easy to use, eye-catching and with flavours designed to pull on the tastebuds - the use of e-cigarettes is on the rise.

With alarming warnings, it's become the UK's next health crisis.  

ITV News can reveal millions of us are now vaping every day, while more people than ever are seeking help to quit.

Kane started vaping two years ago to relieve stress, having never smoked before.

He told me: "I would say that I'm addicted, yes. On average, I'd say I get through maybe four a week. I use any excuse to vape really.

"If I'm feeling stressed or I've had a bad day at work or the kids are being disruptive, you kind of use it as an excuse to have a vape."

He also said that it was all too easy to become hooked adding: "The problem I have with vapes is they don't really have an ending.

"So, if you smoke cigarettes, there's an end to a cigarette and you finish. Whereas a vape, it doesn't stop until the light starts blinking. And so I could vape endlessly."

A survey by the UK Addiction Treatment Group, shared exclusively with ITV News indicated the scale of Brits hooked on vapes.

It shows a staggering 5.1 million adults in the UK vaping at least every day, mostly multiple times a day.

The government has promised to clampdown on disposable vapes. Credit: PA

More than half of them were women, at a huge 2.6 million.

Nearly 400,000 of those were pregnant.

Vaping is also booming across the age groups - over a million of users were aged 40-49. Just over 850, 000 (856,000) were aged 18-24.

Paul Barker from the Allen Carr stop smoking organisation said it was seeing an increase in calls from people wanting help to quit vaping too.

"If we went back five years, it was probably 10% of people were vapers. but at that time, they were dual users. That meant they smoked, and they vaped."

He said. "Now it's just over 20%. But actually what we're seeing is more and more people that have never smoked that have just purely vaped that are attending."

Ann Pybus, a mum of three from Brighton, was seeking help to stop vaping. She was an ex-smoker before she became addicted to vapes.

She told me, "I wasn't controlling when I was vaping. It was definitely controlling me".

She said: "My first vape lasted three months, so I thought, 'oh, this is great. I've cracked this'. Then it gradually built up and built up until I was smoking a vape a day for two years.

"For myself it actually turned out to be a lot worse, I was certainly vaping an awful lot more than I was smoking."

She had tried and failed at quitting herself before turning to professional help. She is now vape-free.

I asked Ann how she felt in herself, now that she had stopped.

She said: "I feel like I have been released from something that was bearing down on me. I don't feel that constant guilt that I'm killing myself."

Vaping is still new so there is no data about its long-term damage. Even so, many are raising questions over whether we should be inhaling chemicals we know nothing about.

Professor Caitlin Notley who is an addiction scientist for Norwich Medical School said: "No one's saying that vaping is completely harm-free.

"It's a very difficult balance, I think clearly, we want to support as many adults or people that smoke tobacco to switch to vaping as soon as we can because it's a deadly thing to do and incredibly harmful thing to health.

"At the same time, we don't want young people who've never smoked to take up vaping either."

What is in no doubt is that smoking tobacco kills. What is still clouded in uncertainty is the long-term health impacts of vaping. And while that uncertainty exists - questions will remain.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...