E-cigarette use among children is on the rise in the UK, but the vast majority of those using them are already current or ex-smokers, a new survey has revealed.
Health experts remain divided on e-cigarettes, amid fears that they could be appealing to children and even act as a gateway to smoking, despite their apparent benefits in helping existing smokers to quit.
New figures released by the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) show that 10 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds have now tried e-cigarettes – up from three per cent last year.
However, less than two per cent are regular users and 90 per cent of regular or occasional young vapers already smoke or are ex-smokers. The findings are based on two surveys of 2,000 young people, carried out in 2013 and 2014.
The Government plans to make sales of e-cigarettes illegal for under 18s, plans which are backed by ASH.
The charity, which has been vocal in its support of e-cigarettes as an effective tool to wean people off tobacco, said that despite the increase, the latest figures should “reassure” the public that e-cigarette use was not widespread among young people.
However, the British Lung Foundation said that the situation needed to be “monitored closely”.
Chief executive Dr Penny Woods said that evidence from the USA suggested that “childhood vaping” was growing considerably among those who have never smoked.
“Until more is known about the long-term health impacts of e-cigarettes, we would be wise to discourage any such growth in the UK,” she said.
The World Health Organisation has taken a hard line against e-cigarettes, calling for a ban on their use in indoor public places, amid a lack of conclusive evidence about their health effects.
However, it is widely accepted that they are much less harmful than tobacco, and many leading experts in the UK have advocated their wider use as quit smoking aids.
Some e-cigarettes and other similar devices could soon be sold as medicines, with a number of companies understood to be seeking approval from regulators.Reuse content