Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a means of recreational nicotine use that can potentially eliminate the need to smoke tobacco. Little is known about the prevalence of use or smokers’ attitudes toward e-cigarettes. This study describes use of and attitudes toward e-cigarettes in Britain.
Respondents from three surveys were recruited from a panel of adults in Britain. Preliminary online and face-to-face qualitative research informed the development of a smokers’ survey (486 smokers who had used e-cigarettes and 894 smokers who had not). Representative samples of adults in Britain were then constructed from the panel for population surveys in 2010 (12,597 adults, including 2,297 smokers) and 2012 (12,432 adults, including 2,093 smokers), generating estimates of the prevalence of e-cigarette use and trial in Great Britain.
Awareness, trial, and current use increased between 2010 and 2012; for example, current use more than doubled from 2.7% of smokers in 2010 to 6.7% in 2012. The proportion of ever-users currently using e-cigarettes was around one-third in both years. In 2012, 1.1% of ex-smokers reported current e-cigarette use, and a further 2.7% reported past use. Approximately 0.5% of never-smokers reported having tried e-cigarettes.
While we found evidence supporting the view that e-cigarette use may be a bridge to quitting, we found very little evidence of e-cigarette use among adults who had never smoked. British smokers would benefit from information about the effective use, risks, and benefits of e-cigarettes, as this might enable the use of e-cigarettes to improve public health.