The number of ecigarette users nearly doubled between 2012 and 2014, according to a recent study on the EU-wide adoption of ecigarettes by researchers at Imperial College London. The study, "Two-year trends and predictors of e-cigarette use in 27 European Union member states" by F Filippidis et al was published in the journal Tobacco Control and the full text is available online.
Conclusions: Smokers most likely to take up ecigarettes to quit
The study conclusions were that current smokers were the most likely to adopt ecigarettes as a quitting mechanism, and that further research was needed to establish the benefits and harm of ecigarettes. Vaper population in the UK rose from 8.9% in 2012 to 15.5% in 2014.
“The majority of e-cigarette use is concentrated among current and former smokers, and people who start using e-cigarettes in order to quit smoking tobacco are more likely to continue to use e-cigarettes.” -Study conclusions
The study also found that dual use of cigarettes and ecigarettes was common, with ecigarette users using ecigs to circumvent bans on tobacco use in public spaces and as a means to cut down on tobacco use in general.
Perception of Harm and Media Blowups of Study Findings
There are concerns from the study findings that younger people between the ages of 18-24 are taking up vaping, and this had been made much of in the media. However, considering that this is the age when most smokers begin using tobacco, it can be argued that at least these ecigarette users are turning to a nicotine delivery method which Public Health England has called 95% less risky than traditional smoking.
There is also a concerted increase in the perception of ecigarettes as harmful across the EU, with the numbers of those who perceived ecigarettes as harmful increasing from 27% to 51% between 2012 and 2014. It is important to note that this question was not asked in terms of relative harm to traditional cigarettes. From the study:
“Considering that e-cigarettes are sometimes promoted as ‘healthier’ alternatives to conventional cigarettes, it would be of more interest to assess whether people consider them equally or less harmful to cigarettes, but, unfortunately, no such data were collected in the Eurobarometer. Hence we decided to focus on people's awareness of potential harmfulness of e-cigarettes and grouped ‘no’ and ‘don't know’ responses together.”
Imperial College London researchers also worked with journalist Michael Mosley for a BBC documentary on the effects of vaping, at the end of which Mosley concludes that ecigarettes are an effective method of tobacco harm reduction. You can view the documentary here.
Essentially, the study concludes that both ecigarette use and perception of ecigarettes as harmful are on the rise in the UK and across the European Union, and calls for more research into their effects. Considering that the amount of research that has been done on ecigarette effects conclusively proves that vaping is far less harmful than smoking in terms of health effects both on vapers and in secondhand emissions, further research can only strengthen these findings.
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