UK study shows more than half of adolescent e-cigarette users had never smoked

The findings of a new study, published in Public Health, suggests young people who may never have experimented with tobacco but consider e-cigarettes (ECs) as a ‘safe’ option, could be at risk of later tobacco use.

A total of 499 school students aged 11 to 16 years in England participated in the study to assess current use and beliefs around e-cigarettes.

The results demonstrated 9.6% of all participants were current smokers (n=48), and 7.0% were current users of e-cigarettes (n=35). More than half of e-cigarette users (52.6%) had never smoked cigarettes or used other forms of tobacco (n= 30), a proportion substantially greater than the literature has previously reported.

Students who used e-cigarette considered them to be cheaper, easier to access and less harmful than tobacco.

“Just under 40% of participants were unaware that ECs contain nicotine (in most cases) and are addictive, which may go some way to explain EC experimentation and initiation, if young people recognise the reduced harm to health, but not the associated risks of use,” the researchers stated.

“This suggests that the trend is continuing at a substantial rate, and EC use in young people may be less to do with attempts to stop smoking, and more to do with experimentation or easier access…”

“Educating young people could reduce the incidence of tobacco use in those who otherwise would not have tried tobacco but were susceptible because of nicotine addiction from EC use,” the study concluded.

Source: E. Fulton, K. Gokal, S. Griffiths, S. Wild, More than half of adolescent E-Cigarette users had never smoked a cigarette: findings from a study of school children in the UK, Public Health, Volume 161, August 2018, 33-35. DOI:10.1016/j.puhe.2018.04.014.