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E-cigarette use remains low among young people


Regular e-cigarette use among young people remains low in Britain and has plateaued among adults, says a new report from Public Health England.

It calls for more smokers to be encouraged to use e-cigarettes as an option to quit tobacco smoking and for health professionals supporting smokers to receive education and training in the use of e-cigarettes in quit attempts.

The report found:

  • While experimentation with e-cigarettes among young people has increased in recent years only 1.7% of under 18s use e-cigarettes weekly or more and the vast majority of those also smoke. Among young people who have never smoked only 0.2% use e-cigarettes regularly.
  • Regular e-cigarette use among adults has plateaued over recent years and remains largely confined to smokers and ex-smokers, with quitting smoking the main motivation for adult vapers.
  • Despite e-cigarettes now being the most popular quit aid, just over a third of smokers have never tried one.
  • Only 4% of quit attempts through Stop Smoking Services in England are made using e-cigarettes, despite this being an effective approach. 

Vaping in England: an evidence update February 2019 says combining e-cigarettes with face-to-face support should remain a recommended option available to all smokers. It calls for further investigation of the barriers to having a licensed medical e-cigarette product in order to support more smokers to quit.

Professor John Newton, Health Improvement Director at Public Health England, said: “In contrast to recent media reports in the US, we are not seeing a surge in e-cigarette use among young people in Britain.  While more young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, the crucial point is that regular use remains low and is very low indeed among those who have never smoked,” he said.

PCRS Executive Chair Dr Noel Baxter says: “This report suggests that e-cigarette use in England seems to be in great part an aid for people to stop smoking tobacco and less a lifestyle choice for nicotine delivery. Our stop smoking services already support people who are using this nicotine delivery method to quit and cut down and health professionals can feel more confident that being positive about e-cigarettes as a treatment option for tobacco dependency is not causing  wider collateral damage within younger tobacco naive populations. Sensibly, the report suggests we keep a close eye on the data in young people."

Healthcare professionals will find the latest evidence based guidance on how to routinely identify smokers, encourage and support a quit attempt in the new PCRS Guide to Diagnosing and Managing Tobacco Dependency .