It is estimated that there are currently 2.1 million adults in Great Britain who smoke electronic cigarettes. Out of these, around 700,000 are ex-smokers while about 1.3 million continue to use tobacco alongside their electronic cigarette. Electronic cigarette use amongst people who have never smoked is negligible.
So what exactly are electronic cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes, also known as vapourisers or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), are often, although not always, designed to look and feel like cigarettes. They have been marketed as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and for use in places where smoking is not permitted since they do not produce smoke.
It has been noted that there has been a large rise in the number of current smokers who have tried electronic cigarettes since 2010. In 2010, only 8.2 per cent of current smokers had ever tried electronic cigarettes. By 2014, this figure had risen to 51.7 per cent. This increase in popularity can be attributed to the role of online media as a marketing tool or medium. Between the years 2009-2011, searches via the search engine Google using the terms ‘electronic cigarette’ increased fifty fold, a fact the industry has attempted to capitalise on by funding various online adverts, web-pages and social networking site groups.
It is also important to state that there has been a gradual but consistent rise in the number of current smokers who also use electronic cigarettes on a regular basis, from 2.7 per cent in 2010 to 17.7 per cent in 2014.
Awareness of electronic cigarettes among adults is widespread. A survey done in 2014 found that 95% of smokers and 90% of non-smokers had heard of electronic cigarettes. Regular use of the devices is confined to current and ex-smokers.
Just over a third (35%) of British adults believes that electronic cigarettes are good for public health while around a quarter (22%) disagree.