New research by ASH finds use of electronic cigarettes remains low among young people

31 October 2016.  ASH has released new data today which finds no evidence that children are being recruited to smoking through their use of electronic cigarettes. [1]

The ASH survey found that more young people are now aware of, and have tried e-cigarettes but regular use is still rare and confined largely to those who currently smoke 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 increased over three years with 6% of 11-18 year olds saying they tried electronic cigarettes ‘once or twice’ in 2014 rising to 9% in 2016.  However, regular use of electronic cigarettes remained rare across all three years with 2% of young people saying they use electronic cigarettes more than once a month in 2016.  During this period there has been a decline in smoking among children, countering the suggestion that e-cigarette use leads to a take-up of smoking. [2]

Understanding of e-cigarettes among young people is generally good, with nearly two thirds (63%) of those who have heard of e-cigarettes believing correctly that they are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.  However, there has been a rise in the proportion of young people who mistakenly believe that e-cigarettes are equally as harmful to the user as cigarettes.  Between 2013 and 2016 the proportion believing that the electronic devices are as equally as harmful increased from 11% to 23%.

The new research is being released on the closing day of a consultation by the Committee on Advertising Practice on the domestic advertising of e-cigarettes. [3] Until the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive on 20th May 2016, e-cigarette manufacturers were allowed to advertise on television and other media with few restrictions.  However, this does not appear to have had any significant impact on youth use of e-cigarettes.  ASH believes that the proposed new code of practice by CAP and BCAP will continue to protect children from most forms of e-cigarette marketing while ensuring that adult consumers are provided with the facts about the relative risks of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco use.

Sarah Williams, Director of Policy at ASH commented:

“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.”


Notes and Links:


[1] ASH/YouGov Smokefree Youth Survey 2016.  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,331 11 to 18 year olds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th March and 10th April 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB 11-18 year olds.

ASH fact sheet: Use of electronic cigarettes among children in Great Britain

[2] Smoking Drinking and Drug Use among young people in 2014, Health and Social Care Information Centre, July 2015

[3] ASH response to the CAP and BCAP consultation on the advertising of electronic cigarettes,  CAP, October 2016