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E-cigarette use has tripled in two years - mostly by quitters

Usage of electronic cigarettes has tripled over the past two years, with more than two million adults now regularly smoking them, a survey has revealed.

Figures released by health charity ASH show that the number of adults in Britain using the devices has risen from an estimated 700,000 in 2012 to 2.1 million this year.

Nearly two-thirds of users said they also smoked regular cigarettes, with the other third being ex-smokers, an increase in the proportion of former smokers compared to previous years.

Just 1% of those asked who never smoked said they had tried electronic cigarettes.

The YouGov survey found that more than half of ex-smokers (51.7%) say that they have tried electronic cigarettes, compared with just 8.2% in 2010.

It showed there has been a consistent rise in the number of current or former smokers who use electronic cigarettes on a regular basis – up from 2.7% in 2010 to 17.7% this year.

“Smokers are increasingly turning to these devices to help them cut down or quit smoking”

Deborah Arnott

Just over a third (35%) of British adults believe that electronic cigarettes are good for public health, while just under a quarter (22%) disagree, the survey said.

The main reason given by ex-smokers for using electronic cigarettes were “to help me stop smoking entirely” (71%) and “to help me keep off tobacco” (48%).

And the biggest reason for current smokers was to “help me reduce the amount of tobacco I smoke, but not stop completely” (48%) followed by “to save money compared with smoking tobacco” (37%) and “to help me stop smoking entirely” (36%).

For the first time, the Ash YouGov survey also asked about the type of electronic cigarette commonly used, with just under half (47%) using rechargeable e-cigarettes with pre-filled cartridges and 41% using rechargeable devices with a separate tank. Just 8% said they most often use disposable e-cigarettes.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash said: “The dramatic rise in use of electronic cigarettes over the past four years suggests that smokers are increasingly turning to these devices to help them cut down or quit smoking. Significantly, usage among non-smokers remains negligible.

“While it is important to control the advertising of electronic cigarettes to make sure children and non-smokers are not being targeted, there is no evidence from our research that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway into smoking.”

The YouGov survey questioned 12,269 adults online last month.

A separate ongoing survey − the Smoking Toolkit Study carried out in England − has also found that smokers are increasingly using electronic cigarettes as an aid to quitting, overtaking use of medicinal nicotine products such as patches and gum.

“Electronic cigarettes may be helping to reduce smoking as more people use them as an aid to quitting”

Robert West

The proportion of smokers who have quit in the last year has increased and smoking rates in England are continuing to fall.

Professor Robert West, from University College London, who led the study, said: “Despite claims that use of electronic cigarettes risks renormalising smoking, we found no evidence to support this view.

“On the contrary, electronic cigarettes may be helping to reduce smoking as more people use them as an aid to quitting.”

Robert West

Robert West

Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, legal and corporate affairs director of e-cigarette company E-Lites, said: “Study after study is showing that scaremongering that e-cigarettes are luring people into tobacco is baseless nonsense.

“The reverse is going on − smokers are switching into e-cigarettes as the way to reduce the harm from tobacco.”

He added: “The big e-cigarette companies like E-Lites are keen to work together with government to draw up codes on advertising, bans on sales to children, product quality and safety and continuing research.”

James Dunworth, co-founder of ECigaretteDirect.co.uk, said: “We really welcome today’s news as it confirms what we have been saying for many years now, that e-cigs are not a pathway to smoking but are, for the vast majority, the complete opposite.”

E-cigarette use triples in 2 years

Readers' comments (4)

  • My 13 year olds friend has a fruit flavoured one so if that is not enticing youngsters into smoking then I don't know what is.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • used to love the sweetie ones as a kid but fortunately after a party as a teenage where I secretly chained smoked a whole packet (fortunately without inhalation) I have never touched another since and am now 67 and very fit, healthy and happy never having visited a GP or other medical services. :-)

    I do not wish to see even e-cigs. in public places as one may not be able to tell at a distance and in crowded areas and people are sometimes aggressive if asked to stop even if it is for real. Your rights and there rights and all that. there have also been stories of exploding e-cigs.

    on the trains you already have to put up all the mobiles and in Europe when you step on or off a train you have to walk through a thick smoke screen on the platform!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • As a smoker -the curse of the earth, it seems, I am finding them really useful in quitting. Perhaps we should ban obese people in public, to promote healthy eating and pubs, so as not to promote alcohol addiction.

    Being more realistic, change takes time, and I don't disagree with the discouragement of smoking, but it needs a complete ban but we won't get that because of the revenue the government gets and the power of the tobacco industry, similar to the power of big pharma

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  • seems a paradox on one hand the government welcome the revenue from the sale of cigarettes but on the other they want to cut health costs by discouraging smoking.

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