Monday, 28 April 2014

ASH UK: E-cigarettes will save the lives of children

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) UK released some very interesting statistics on the 25th of April: http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf. Their statistic material is based on a series of studies starting back in 2010 and repeated in February 2012, March 2013 and March 2014. In March 2013 an additional survey of children aged 11 to 18 was conducted.

ASH estimates there are 2.1 million adult e-cigarette users in Great Britain in march 2014. 700.000 of these are ex-smokers while 1.3 million continues to use tobacco. The study also concludes that 35% of British adults believe that electronic cigarettes are good for public health, while 22% disagrees with this. That leaves a pretty big number of people that still haven't got an opinion on this. I've written earlier about how vapers and their behaviour can affect what attitude these people will end up with towards vaping: http://vapingiraffe.blogspot.no/2014/04/responsible-vapers-can-give-us.html

Among adult smokers in the UK the number that has ever tried e-cigarettes has gone from 8.2% in 2010 to 51.7% in 2014. Regular use among smokers (dual-users) has gone from 2.7% to 17.7% in the same period of time. Among ex-smokers the number that has ever tried has gone from 3.7% to 11.8% and regular use has gone from 1.1% to 4.7%. This was a bit surprising to me, as this can suggest that over half of the people that quit smoking by e-cigarettes, also quits the e-cigarette use after a while. The study however gives no such conclusion as it has no data to support this since the "ever tried" term covers everything from people who has tried it once to people who has used them for months or even years and then stopped. The most interesting numbers, however, are these: Among never smokers 1.1% say they have ever tried an e-cigarette, but only 0.1% (virtually none) continues the use. There goes your gateway argument out the window.
 
Among ex-smokers the most common reasons given for use is a quit attempt (71%) or "to help me keep off tobacco" (48%). Among smokers "help me reduce the amount of tobacco I smoke, but not stop completely" (48%) and "to save money compared with smoking tobacco" (37%) are the most common reasons. The study also examined the variation in products used showing that re-chargeable e-cigarette kits with replaceable pre-filled cartridges (cig-alikes) are the most common type that people try first and also the most common one for continued use. However, ex-smokers (people who managed to quit completely) prefers more advanced e-cigarettes with refillable tanks. This could mean that these are more effective in helping people quit, but again, the study has insufficient data to conclude something like that. For more details on the various types of e-cigarettes used, see the study.

The most interesting part of this study, in my opinion, is the part where use among children is examined. I urge you all to read it. The conclusions made from this part are these:
  • Understanding of electronic cigarettes among children is generally good.
  • Among children who have heard of electronic cigarettes, sustained use is rare and confined to children who currently or have previously smoked.
  • Few children expect to use an electronic cigarette soon, except those who already smoke.
  • Frequent (more than weekly) use of electronic cigarettes by children was confined almost entirely to ex-smokers and daily smokers.
This means that e-cigarette use patterns among children looks very much like the ones for adults: They are almost exclusively used by children who already smoke. Among children that has never smoked, only 1% have tried an e-cigarette once or twice, and the study concludes there is no evidence of regular electronic cigarette use among children who have never smoked or who have only tried smoking once. In other words, electronic cigarettes have the potential to save children from a life-time of tobacco use, as the numbers also very strongly indicates that the gateway argument is totally invalid. The numbers provided by ASH in this studies shows that the rising number of children and young people who experiments with e-cigarettes should be viewed as encouraging rather than worrying.


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