More than half of vaping 11-16 year olds ‘never smoked cigarette’

More than half of vaping 11-16 year olds ‘never smoked cigarette’
Research news

Thursday 02 August 2018

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More than half of e-cigarette users aged between 11 and 16 have never smoked a real cigarette, new research suggests.

It’s the highest proportion recorded to date and shows a worrying potential rise in the number of young people who may be trying vaping to experiment or because they think it is ‘cool’, say Coventry University academics.

The study also raises concerns that e-cigarettes may be acting as a ‘gateway’ to smoking cigarettes for some youngsters, who do not realise they contain nicotine and can be addictive.

Only 40% of the youngsters questioned realised that e-cigarettes contained nicotine, and only 30% understood they were addictive.

Researchers say these findings show young people need better education about e-cigarettes, the risks to health and of addiction.

The study is part of a wider research project about young people’s attitudes towards smoking and saw 499 school pupils complete a questionnaire about their own knowledge and experience of smoking.

Some 11.4% (57 young people) said they had tried e-cigarettes at some point, with 52.6% of these (30 young people) admitting they had never smoked other cigarettes or used other forms of tobacco.

It follows two previous studies that found between only 10% and 16% of school-aged e-cigarette users had never smoked tobacco.

The Coventry study, published in the journal Public Health, also found that just under 40% of participants were unsure or did not believe that e-cigarettes were better for health than normal cigarettes.

There is an intense international debate surrounding the use of e-cigarettes, with many experts saying they can be beneficial to help people stop smoking.

But there are concerns about their use by people who have never previously smoked and fears they could prompt people to take up smoking.

The Coventry study was funded and commissioned by Public Health Warwickshire.


Lead researcher Dr Emmie Fulton, of Coventry University’s Centre for Advances in Behavioural Sciences, who works with Public Health Warwickshire, said:

The proportion of young people who are experimenting with e-cigarettes but have never used tobacco may be growing, and if so, this is worrying.

The young people we sampled may use e-cigarettes because they are easier to access than tobacco, and would have gone on to smoke regardless; however they may also represent a group of young people who have no intention of trying cigarettes but could be becoming addicted to nicotine accidentally.

There’s the potential that this could act as a gateway to smoking and tobacco use for a proportion of the population who would otherwise have remained non-nicotine users.

This study may be small-scale, but its findings show that more education and research is needed in this area.

We don’t truly understand the relationship between e-cigarette use and tobacco smoking yet – but we have to make young people more aware of what we do know, including nicotine content of vaping products and risk of addiction.


For further press information, please contact Alison Martin, press officer, Coventry University, on 02477659752 or email