More than half of adolescent electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) users in the United Kingdom have never smoked a cigarette, according to new figures. Experimental use of e-cigarettes in adolescence is a growing international concern, given its association with later tobacco use. A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study published in the journal Public Health examined beliefs about e-cigarettes and current use among UK schoolchildren aged 11-16 years.
A total of 499 pupils took part, with data collected between June 2015 and April 2016. The mean age of pupils was 14.1 years. Of all participants, 9.6% (n=48) identified themselves as current smokers of cigarettes and 7.0% (n=35) of all participants were current e-cigarettes users.
More than half of EC users had never smoked cigarettes or used other forms of tobacco (52.6%; n=30). Of those who had never smoked cigarettes, 7.6% (n=30) had tried e-cigarettes and of these, half (n=15) were current users. Of 13 ex-smokers, 2 were currently using e-cigarettes and 1 had used e-cigarettes in the past. Of the 47 current smokers, 38.3% (n=18) were current users of e-cigarettes. Just under half of smokers had never used ECs (48.9%).
Less than 4 of every 10 participants were aware that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and less than 3 out of every 10 knew that e-cigarettes are addictive.
The authors said: “Given the possible association of e-cigarette use and later smoking initiation, education in schools may warrant greater emphasis on e-cigarettes, the role of nicotine and the risk of addiction associated with experimentation. Young people who deem ECs as a 'safe' option, and may otherwise have never experimented with tobacco, could be at risk of later tobacco use.”