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Press Release

New ASH data reveals that youth use of e-cigarettes in Great Britain is very low 

16 Aug 2018

16 August 2018

New ASH data reveals that youth use of e-cigarettes in Great Britain is very low

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) today published new data which finds that youth (11-18 year-old) use of e-cigarettes in Great Britain is rare and largely confined to those that already smoke tobacco cigarettes [1]. The findings come from an annual YouGov survey, commissioned by ASH, which examines youth use of e-cigarettes in England, Wales and Scotland (Great Britain).

The data is released ahead of a major new report on e-cigarettes due to be published by the Science and Technology Select Committee later this week. The Committee has considered the impact of electronic cigarettes on health, the suitability of regulations and the implications of the growing market. Early analysis of this survey data was provided to the committee to support the inquiry.

The survey finds that regular use of e-cigarettes remains very low; just 2% of youths use e-cigarettes at least weekly while another 2% use them occasionally (once a month or less). There is a low level of experimentation with 12% of youths having tried e-cigarettes once or twice. Most youths haven’t tried e-cigarettes ever (76%) while 7% haven’t heard of them at all.

E-cigarette use amongst those that have never smoked is extremely low. Of the respondents that have never tried a tobacco cigarette: 87% also haven’t tried e-cigarettes, 7% are unaware of e-cigarettes, 5% have tried them just once or twice and less than 1% use them with any regularity.

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at ASH, said:

There has been widespread concern that e-cigarettes will cause more young people to take up smoking but these fears are unfounded. Today’s data shows that despite some evidence of experimentation, regular use is rare and almost exclusively found among a declining number of children who smoke tobacco cigarettes.

The UK has robust regulation intended to protect children through limiting marketing and restricting sales of e-cigarettes. The good news is that this is working. The even better news is that youth smoking rates are at an all-time low.”

Use or experimentation with e-cigarettes increases with age; 3% of 11 year olds said they’ve tried an e-cigarette once or twice and this rises to 23% of 18 year olds. At least weekly use is 0% for 11 year olds increasing to 3% of 18 year olds.

The survey also finds that a growing proportion of young people incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes. In 2013, 11% of respondents said e-cigarettes had ‘about the same’ level of harm as tobacco cigarettes and this has increased to 28% in 2018. The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful to your health than tobacco cigarettes, a figure which has been endorsed by Public Health England [2].

The latest ASH survey echoes the findings of a review of surveys covering 60,000 children across the UK, published last year. That study concluded that: “Surveys across the UK show a consistent pattern: most e-cigarette experimentation does not turn into regular use, and levels of regular use in young people who have never smoked remain very low.” [3]


Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information contact ASH on 020 7404 0242, or out of hours Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.


[1] 2018 ASH Smokefree GB Youth Survey, Total sample size was 2,291 British youths aged 11-18. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th February – 17th March 2018. The analysis of the survey can be downloaded via this link:

[2] McNeill A, Brose LS, Calder R, Bauld L & Robson D. Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018. A report commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England; 2018.

[3] Bauld L, MacKintosh AM, Eastwood B, Ford A, Moore G, Dockrell M, Arnott D, Cheeseman H, McNeill A. Young people’s use of e-cigarettes across the United Kingdom: findings from five surveys 2015–2017. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2017 Aug 29;14(9):973.