Young People’s Use of E-Cigarettes across the United Kingdom: Findings from Five Surveys 2015–2017

Young People’s Use of E-Cigarettes across the United Kingdom: Findings from Five Surveys 2015–2017

Linda Bauld 1,2, Anne Marie MacKintosh 1,2, Brian Eastwood 3, Allison Ford 1,2, Graham Moore 4, Martin Dockrell 3, Deborah Arnott 5, Hazel Cheeseman 5 and Ann McNeill 2,6

1 Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
2 UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
3 Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Division, Health Improvement Directorate, Public Health England, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London SE1 6LH, UK
4 Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, 1-3 Museum Place, Cardiff CF10 3BD, UK
5 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH); 67-68 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8JY, UK
6 Addictions Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8BB, UK

Received: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 29 August 2017

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(9), 973;

Source DOI: 10.3390/ijerph14090973

Abstract: Concern has been expressed about the use of e-cigarettes among young people. Our study reported e-cigarette and tobacco cigarette ever and regular use among 11–16 year olds across the UK. Data came from five large scale surveys with different designs and sampling strategies conducted between 2015 and 2017: The Youth Tobacco Policy Survey; the Schools Health Research Network Wales survey; two Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Smokefree Great Britain-Youth Surveys; and the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey. Cumulatively these surveys collected data from over 60,000 young people. For 2015/16 data for 11–16 year olds: ever smoking ranged from 11% to 20%; regular (at least weekly) smoking between 1% and 4%; ever use of e-cigarettes 7% to 18%; regular (at least weekly) use 1% to 3%; among never smokers, ever e-cigarette use ranged from 4% to 10% with regular use between 0.1% and 0.5%; among regular smokers, ever e-cigarette use ranged from 67% to 92% and regular use 7% to 38%. ASH surveys showed a rise in the prevalence of ever use of e-cigarettes from 7% (2016) to 11% (2017) but prevalence of regular use did not change remaining at 1%. In summary, surveys across the UK show a consistent pattern: most e-cigarette experimentation does not turn into regular use, and levels of regular use in young people who have never smoked remain very low.

5. Conclusions

This paper highlights the current rates of e-cigarette use among youth in the UK, where e-cigarettes form a part of a tobacco harm reduction policy landscape. Whilst it is estimated that there are 2.9 million e-cigarette current users among adults in Great Britain, regular use among 11–16 year olds remains very low, at 3% or less, and remains largely confined to regular smokers. Regular e-cigarette use among never smokers is very rare. These low rates of regular use suggest that youth experimentation is not currently leading to greater frequency of use, however, comparing youth e-cigarette data and trends across surveys and countries is crucial to better understand youth trends. Survey measures must be designed to assess frequency of use, rather than just ever or past 30 day use.

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