A recent study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Great Britain is showing some enlightening facts about who really is using e-cigarettes. The data from the ONS showed, among other interesting facts, that in 2014 only 0.1% of people who had never smoked before were smokers of e-cigarettes. Researchers are suggesting that this indicates that e-cigarettes truly do not attract people who never smoked before to use them.
A spokesperson for ONS said to BBC News: “E-cigarettes are almost exclusively used by smokers and ex-smokers. Almost none of those who had never smoked cigarettes were e-cigarette users.” The data comes as no shock to the hundreds and thousands of e-cigarettes users, who were once tobacco smokers. As a cessation method, users are experiencing great success with e-cigarettes, devices that are helping people the world over kick the dangerous habit of smoking.
The ONS data also showed that in general there has been a decline in the number of people smoking in Great Britain going from 20% to 19% between 2012 and 2013. The numbers in the USA are also down, and in both of these countries the use of e-cigarettes is on the rapid rise. Smoking, at least in the old fashioned, combustible way, appears to be on the decline in many countries all over the world. However, the e-cigarette industry continues to grow at an incredible rate, the likes of with very few industries have ever seen.
The survey also produced some interesting information on why people are switching over from their cigarettes to the popular vaping devices. The ONS study showed that over half of e-cigarette users said that their main reason for using e-cigarettes was to stop smoking. In addition, another one in five said the main reason for their use was because e-cigarettes are thought to be less harmful than the tradition cigarettes they used to smoke. With almost 70% of users attributing their e-cigarette usage to health reasons, it shows that not only are e-cigarettes considered by their users to be a healthier choice, but they are not often chosen as a first introduction to nicotine and “smoking”. This is in direct opposition to many critics’ opinion that e-cigarettes are becoming a popular gateway for teens and adolescents to enter the world of “smoking”.
That is why these findings are extremely important when it comes to the war on e-cigarettes. Opponents of e-cigarettes often criticize vaping and the industry for marketing to kids, specifically with the intent to lure them into a lifelong addiction. However findings, such as the ONS study, paint a more realistic portrait of the true landscape of e-cigarette users. Not only are e-cigarette companies not targeting minors; minors are not even the ones using e-cigarettes.
Again, critics may argue these simple facts. Recent studies may on the surface even seem to suggest they have a point. The Center for Disease Control recently released their findings on youth e-cigarette use. Their survey showed that 4.5% of high school aged teenagers had used an e-cigarette product at some point within the last month a figure that was up from 1.5% in 2011. These findings, however, are just part of the larger picture of a new societal trend taking effect. The trends of the teenage population are simply mimicking that of the general population around us. With sales of e-cigarettes growing approximately 25% each year, use is bound to be up across the board. These type of increases are to be expected when the popularity and accessibility of a product has grown at such an enormous rate. The accessibility youth, and all consumers, had to e-cigarettes was far different in 2011, a fact that should also be taken into consideration when examining the increased percentage in youth use.
Dr. Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, seems to disagree with the gateway theory when attributed to e-cigarettes. She stated in response to the ONS survey that: “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.” While cigarettes are becoming replaced with e-cigarettes their accessibility will grow, and this fact should be well monitored to keep e-cigarettes exactly what they are, a healthier choice, rather than a gateway to addiction.
The ONS survey gives us important insight on the users of e-cigarettes, which can only help in the long run. Knowing not only who is using e-cigarettes, primarily smokers and ex smokers, but also why, will hopefully help opponents of e-cigarettes understand the benefits and let them outshine the negatives. While e-cigarette users already know who they are and why they vape, studies that show these simple facts will help e-cigarettes maintain their foothold as a benefit to society, rather than a detriment.