Newspaper Article 1)
Press Release: UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
The number of people using electronic cigarettes has tripled from 700,000 to 2.1m in the past three years, new figures reveal. More than half of all smokers have now tried the electronic nicotine inhalers, up from a third last year.
Despite the growing trend in “vaping”, e-cigarettes remain controversial, with experts divided on their effectiveness at helping people to quit the habit and critics concerned that some products are being marketed in a manner that appeals to children.
The proportion of smokers who regularly vape has risen sharply in the past two years from 7% to 18%, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). The study of 12,269 adult smokers also found that of the 2.1m e-cigarette users, two thirds continue to smoke normal cigarettes. As well as those trying to wean themselves off tobacco, it suggests some are resorting to e-cigarettes in places where smoking tobacco is banned. Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Ash, said: “Dual users are taking a useful step on the way to quitting, but we would urge them to switch completely to avoid smoking-related disease. Electronic cigarettes provide smokers with the nicotine they seek without the deadly toxins delivered by smoking tobacco.”
While the survey shows that 700,000 former smokers now use e-cigarettes, it does not distinguish between those who had used e-cigarettes to quit and those who had already given up the habit when they took up vaping.
But Robert West, director of tobacco research at University College London, said there is evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit. Research due to be published next month shows smokers who attempted to give up without professional support were 60% more likely to succeed if they used e-cigarettes compared with those who used no aid or used other nicotine replacement products.
The study, entitled Real-world Effectiveness of E-Cigarettes, surveyed 5,863 adults who had smoked within the previous 12 months and had made at least one attempt to quit.
“About 85% of people using e-cigarettes are smokers trying to quit. Some are successful but many more relapse and are now using e-cigarettes to cut down,” said West.
Despite the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, concerns remain about possible health risks. The World Health Organisation says the potential risks “remain undetermined” and scientific tests indicate that the amount of nicotine and chemicals used in e-cigarettes varies widely.
Last week one of the first studies into the biological effects suggested gene mutations occurred in lung cells exposed to e-cigarette vapour. Researchers from Boston University revealed their initial findings at an American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in California.
Professor Avrum Spira, a pulmonary specialist at Boston University, said: “Electronic cigarettes may be safer than smoking tobacco but our preliminary studies suggest they may not be benign.”