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Nicotine strength of e-liquids used by adult vapers in Great Britain: A population survey 2016 to 2024

Sarah E. Jackson, Jamie Brown, Lion Shahab, Deborah Arnott, Linda Bauld, Sharon Cox

First published: 19 June 2024


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Background and aims

In March 2024, the UK government announced plans to introduce a Vaping Products Duty that will tax e-liquids based on their nicotine strength. This study examined trends in the nicotine strength of e-liquids used by adult vapers and differences in those currently used across relevant subgroups.


Nationally-representative, cross-sectional household survey, July 2016 to January 2024.


Great Britain.


7981 adult vapers.


Participants were asked whether the e-cigarette they mainly use contains nicotine (yes/no) and the e-liquid strength (no nicotine, >0–≤ 6, 7–11, 12–19 or ≥20 mg/ml). We also collected information on the main device type used (disposable/refillable/pod), age, gender, occupational social grade, history of ≥1 mental health conditions, smoking status and (among past-year smokers) level of cigarette addiction.


The proportion of vapers in England using high-strength (≥20 mg/ml) e-liquids increased from an average of 3.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.9–5.0) up to June 2021 to 32.5% (CI = 27.9–37.4) in January 2024 (the vast majority of whom [93.3% in January 2024] reported using exactly 20 mg/ml; the legal limit). This rise was most pronounced among those using disposable e-cigarettes, those aged 18-24 years and all smoking statuses (including never smokers) except long-term (≥1y) ex-smokers. Of those surveyed in 2022–2024 in Great Britain, overall, 89.5% (CI = 88.1–90.8) said they usually used e-cigarettes containing nicotine, 8.7% (CI = 7.5–10.0) used nicotine-free e-cigarettes, and 1.8% (CI = 1.2–2.4) were unsure. The proportion using ≥20 mg/ml was higher among those mainly using disposable (47.9%) compared with pod (16.3%) or refillable (11.5%) devices; never smokers (36.0%), current smokers (28.8%) or recent (<1y) ex-smokers (27.4%), compared with long-term ex-smokers (13.9%); and younger (16–24y; 44.2%) compared with older (≥25y; range 9.4–25.1%) age groups. There were no notable differences across other subgroups of interest.


Use of high-strength nicotine e-liquids in England appears to have increased sharply in recent years. Most adult vapers in Great Britain appear to use e-cigarettes that contain nicotine but different subgroups use different strengths: nicotine strengths tend to be higher among those who mainly use disposable devices and those aged 16–24y, and lower among long-term ex-smokers.

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