A newly released study from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates that people who currently use electronic cigarettes are almost entirely smokers or former smokers, thus confirming that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking.
One of the main arguments used by e-cigarette opponents to spread their negative propaganda is that electronic cigarettes use eventually leads to tobacco smoking. Although this theory was supported by questionable studies like the one conducted by Dr. Stanton Glanz, a well-known opponent of e-cigarettes, solid data confirms that in real life, electronic cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking.
Data collected by the Office for National Statistics between January and Mach 2014 shows that e-cigarettes are almost exclusively used by current or former smokers. Their findings indicate that less than 1 in 300 people who have never smoked currently use electronic cigarettes. Comparatively, 11.8% of smokers and 4.8% of ex-smokers in the United Kingdom use them. “E-cigarettes are almost exclusively used by smokers and ex-smokers. Almost none of those who had never smoked cigarettes were e-cigarette users,” a spokesperson for ONS said.
Overall, the number of smokers in the UK has decreased by more than half in the last 40 years. Back in 1973 people who smoked regularly outnumbered those who had never done so, while nowadays most adults in Britain have never smoked. The ONS study also found that unmarried people were twice as likely to be smokers as married people, so if electronic cigarettes or classic nicotine replacement therapy don’t help you quit, marriage probably will.
Over half of the people surveyed by ONS viewed e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking completely, while one in five said they perceived them as less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes.
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “These data should again alleviate the fears expressed by some over an e-cigarette gateway effect – people trying e-cigarettes before moving on to the much more harmful practice of smoking. However, this is something we’ll need to keep a watchful eye on, as the situation may well change as e-cigarettes continue to become more commonplace.”
The figures released by the Office of National Statistics back up the findings of another UK survey conducted by the Action of Smoking and Health charity. In September, they reported that out of 2,000 children aged 11 – 18 surveyed for the study, less than 10% had tried electronic cigarettes. Out of the 1.8% classified as regular or occasional e-cig users, 90% were already smokers.
The information published by the ONS constitutes preliminary data that they choose to make public because there was a need for information about electronic cigarettes and their effect on society.
Photo credit: Christopher Cornelius