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Young people’s regular use of e-cigarettes still low

More teenagers trying e-cigarettes but only 2% do so regularly

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 31 October 2016

Increasing numbers of teenagers are trying e-cigarettes and are aware of the devices but the amount who continue to do so regularly has remained low, according to data released today.

Health charity ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) revealed some results from its ASH/YouGov Smokefree Youth Survey 2016, which contained responses from 2,311 children aged 11 to 18, and added the data to its Use of electronic cigarettes among children in Great Britain fact sheet.

The ASH survey found that more young people were now aware of and had tried e-cigarettes but regular use was still rare and confined largely to those who currently smoked or have previously smoked.

In 2016, only 5% of 11-18-year-olds said they had not heard of e-cigarettes, down from 30% in 2013.

Experimentation has increased over three years with 9% of 11-18-years-olds saying they had tried e-cigarettes “once or twice” – up from 6% in 2014.

However, regular use of the devices remained rare across all three years with only 2% of young people saying they used e-cigarettes more than once a month in 2016.

ASH said that, during this period, there has been a decline in smoking among children, in contrast to suggestions that e-cigarette use leads to a take-up of smoking.

Almost two thirds (63%) of those who had heard of e-cigarettes believed correctly that they were less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

However, there was a rise in the proportion of young people who mistakenly believed that e-cigarettes were equally as harmful to the user as cigarettes – between 2013 and 2016, the proportion who believed this rose from 11% to 23%.

ASH’s research was released on the closing day of a consultation by the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) on the domestic advertising of e-cigarettes to which ASH has submitted a response.

The charity said that until the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive in May of this year, e-cigarette manufacturers were allowed to advertise on television and other media with few restrictions.

Nevertheless, this did not appear to have had any significant impact on youth use of e-cigarettes, it added, saying that the proposed new code of practice would continue to protect children from most forms of e-cigarette marketing while ensuring that adult consumers were properly informed about the relative risks of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco use.

Sarah Williams, ASH director of policy, said: “Although more young people are trying electronic cigarettes and many more young people are aware of them, this has not led to widespread regular use or an increase in smoking.

“E-cigarette advertising permitted under the CAP code should enable adult consumers to make informed choices about the products while ensuring that children are protected from inappropriate marketing.”

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