A new study published reveals that over a third of British adults believe that e-cigarettes are of benefit to public health.  The findings come at a crucial time as there has recently been a lot of high-profile discourse concerning the safety and benefits of electronic cigarettes.

One of the major debates surrounding increasing prevalence of the electronic cigarette was that it may be seen as a gateway to real cigarettes.  Many were concerned that rather than helping people to quit smoking, it would encourage more to take up the habit.   

E-cigs benefit public health

However, health charity Action of Smoking and Health (ASH) has conducted a new study revealing that there is little evidence suggesting that non-smokers use e-cigarettes, or are encouraged to start smoking because of them.

ASH’s research was published on the same day that the ASA’s consultation on advertising e-cigs closed.  The consultation proposed introducing new rules for the way that electronic cigarettes are branded and advertised. 

So, what were ASH’s main findings in their most recent study?

 The charity estimated that over 2 million UK adults are currently using e-cigs.

  • The predominant reason current smokers give for using e-cigarettes is an attempt to cut back on cigarettes, while non-smokers cite e-cig use as an aid to quit smoking altogether.  The study also discovered that 37% of e-cig users opt to vapeas a cheaper alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.
  • Use of electronic cigarettes by children and young people was found to be rare, with those who did use vapour cigarettes having previously smoked traditional cigarettes.
  • Just 1.1% of non-smokers had tried e-cigarettes, with hardly any continuing on a long-term basis.

Professor Robert West from University College London concluded: “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.”

Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, added, “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.”