In 2010 a mere 8% of people who were smokers at any point in their lives, had experienced electronic cigarettes. Comparatively a whopping 50% of such people have now tried the electronic version. An estimate by a health charity shows that the population of electronic cigarette users in UK has increased to 2.1 million, a three-fold increase within a short span of two years.
These insights were revealed through a survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) covering over 12,000 smoking adults.
Another study revealed that most smokers were using electronic cigarettes to cut down on smoking.
ASH also noted that only around 1% of e-cigarette users had never smoked traditional cigarettes.
The survey on the use of e-cigarettes which was conducted in March, was the latest among a number of similar surveys ASH has been conducting since 2010.
Of the respondents who were using e-cigarettes, around 700,000 were those who had apparently given up smoking while another 1.3 million were using both products.
E-cigarette users among current smokers jumped to 17.7% in 2020 from just 2.7% in 2010.
When asked, 71% of ex-smokers replied saying that they adopted electronic cigarettes in their efforts to quit smoking. Forty-eight per cent of smokers confirmed that they wanted to cut down on their tobacco use while 37% wanted to save money.
Chief executive of ASH, Deborah Arnott, while confirming that the numbers of non-smokers opting for electronic cigarettes were negligible, states that smokers adopted the electronic product either to reduce smoking or to give it up entirely.
The Smoking Toolkit Study, a separate study conducted in England, revealed that more smokers were opting for e-cigarettes as the preferred aid to stop smoking as compared to nicotine delivery products like gum and patches.
The study also noted a falling trend in the rates of smoking in England coupled with an increase in the percentage of smokers quitting the habit.
Prof Robert West, a study leader claimed that there was no evidence to show that the use of e-cigarettes made smoking more socially acceptable, despite claims to the contrary. Quite the opposite, people were using the device to help them quit smoking thus helping them to lower their cigarette consumption.
Ms Arnott emphasizes the immediate need to monitor the advertising of e-cigarettes, ensuring that the ads are not directed specifically at non-smokers and children. At the same time she states that the available evidence does not demonstrate that e-cigarettes are, in fact, the first step towards smoking addiction.
The survey by ASH also found that e-cigarette users tend to favour rechargeable devices with cartridges that can be replaced.
Director of pro-smoker group, Forest, Simon Clark, feels that the increased use of e-cigarettes is a welcome phenomenon, allowing smokers to choose what they want to smoke.
He feels that most smokers are just trying out electronic cigarettes without the intention of quitting the habit.
Mr Clark states that there has been no noticeable fall in the number of smokers. According to him, a majority of smokers feel electronic cigarettes are relatively new and needs substantial technological advances to gain wider acceptance.